By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The Guam Chamber of Commerce criticized Democratic senators for voting in favor of a bill raising government employees' salaries without thoroughly examining its impact.
"What was the urgency in passing this bill before April 1st? Why did the Guam legislature pass the bill when so many questions remained unanswered? Was there an economic impact study to support the sustainability of this new pay schedule?" the chamber said in a statement issued today.
Bill 24-37, which would appropriate $21 million to support a 22 percent increase to the general pay plan, passed the legislature in a party-line vote Friday.
Senators tackled the bill during a three-day special session called by Gov. Lou Leon Gurrero.
"The public noted that during Friday evening's discussion on the session floor, the senators acted on a bill without pertinent details regarding who the recipients are and how many employees will the pay raises impact, what the actual costs are, and what are the unintended consequences to the community," the chamber said.
Leon Guerrero, the cheerleader-in-chief for the bill, is expected to sign the bill into law this week. If enacted, the pay adjustments would take effect on April 1.
"We appreciate that the following senators took a firm stance to oppose the 22 percent pay raise to the GPP at this time: Sens. Frank Blas, Jr., Christopher Duenas, Joanne Brown, Jesse Lujan and Thomas Fisher," the chamber said.
In a statement prior to the bill's discussion, the chamber asked the legislature to prioritize public safety, public health, public schools and community-related issues.
"However, this call to action fell to the wayside when eight senators voted to increase the GPP by 22 percent," the chamber said. "The plea of the private sector, which employs over 49,000 residents according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was rejected by the senators who voted to favor the pay raise."
The chamber reminded elected officials that the business community is the backbone of the economy and supports the government's coffers.
"Private sector businesses and employees contribute the most to the general fund. The Government of Guam's employee base has grown over the past three years, while the private sector's employee base has shrunk," the chamber said.
The business group said GovGuam's excess revenue can be attributed to taxes and fees paid by the private sector.
"Any excess revenues should be returned to the taxpayers. How long will local businesses continue to operate in today's conditions?" the chamber asked. "How many more of our best and brightest residents will relocate to greener pastures? It is the government's job to take care of the general welfare of all its people."