A bill is currently pending in the House of Representatives that seeks to cut an average of 25 percent from the annual salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, CNMI representative to Washington, members of the Legislature as well as other elected island officials. We asked some lawmakers how they view the proposal, particularly at a time when the Northern Marianas economy is going southward with bleak future for immediate recovery. Here are their answers:
Members of the Legislature and other elected CNMI officials do not have the requirement to time in when they work. We still get paid whether we show up or not. I believe we should be the first ones to suffer pay cuts, not government employees. And despite the strong objection from my colleagues, I’m still lobbying for the passage of my bill.
Rep. Melvin Faisao
If we are going to do it, we have to do it in the next term because under the Constitution, it will have to be implemented in the next legislature. But I’m not sure that it will go through. There are some people who say we don’t deserve the cuts. So I think that will have to be a last resort, like cutting back on government payroll.
Senate Vice President Thomas P. Villagomez
If worse comes to worst, by all means everybody has to pitch in. Legislators, the judiciary and executive officials, especially the highly-paid employees like those on special contracts. At a time like this, we have to put in our share to help the government deal with our economic problems.
Rep. Malua T. Peter
If that works for the best of everyone, I’m all for it. I am for civic virtue. Rather than seeing people in the government suffer because they have been laid off, I’d like to take a pay cut. Everybody will suffer a little but at least everyone stays alive through the worst of time.
Rep. Frank Cepeda
If this is in response to the fiscal austerity and a way for us to participate in working out a solution to the current problems, I’m fully supporting the proposal. I don’t think we can wait to help the government. If there’s a crisis now, we should volunteer to have our own pay cut. I will be supporting any move to cut my salary first, before I will support any cut in teachers’ salary.
Senate Floor leader Pete P. Reyes