Tourism funding was cut by $2.5 million to fund other agency needs and a 5-percent salary increase for law enforcement officers turned out to be “not equitable” because Rota and Tinian senators, along with other lawmakers, failed to ensure inclusion of those in the first and second senatorial districts.
But in the end, a number of lawmakers rewarded themselves for their role in their own sad reality show on Capital Hill via a padded leadership funding, on top of their annual salary and discretionary money.
Here’s to hoping that members of the 19th Legislature won’t waste any more time and other resources trying to override the governor’s line-item vetoes and instead heed the governor’s suggestions. These include, among other things, finding “a fair and workable plan” to raise law enforcement salaries in a separate bill and establish first a drug court so it can be legally funded.
Speaking of salary hikes: A few days after passing a compromise budget bill, most members of the House of Representatives approved a salary increase for casino commissioners from $40,000 to $65,000 and the commission executive director from $85,000 to $100,000.
These individuals regulate a few-months-old “live training” casino facility, the size and cost of which is a tiny dot out of the promised $7.1 billion integrated resort investment on Saipan that got most elected officials excited—and ready to do just about everything. Not one of the House members who approved the salary hikes was able to justify the pay increase itself without dragging the other portions of House Bill 19-95 to the reasoning, such as “the bill will fund retirees’ 25 percent pension” or “will also secure funding for the casino commission’s staff to continue working and executing their duties…” The unjustifiable salary increase shouldn’t have been included in the bill in the first place.
Either the senators can partly redeem themselves by not accepting HB 19-95 in its current form, or Gov. Eloy S. Inos could once again make reasonable use of his line-item veto for the salary increase and other problematic provisions of the bill, among other things.
Moreover, forcing a vote on a substitute bill on the same day it’s finalized—as what the House leadership did with HB 19-95—is plain reckless, irresponsible, and unreasonable.
Many members of the current House leadership need not be reminded that they themselves were a part of the minority in the previous Legislatures who, at the time, were fighting tooth and nail to be given an opportunity to be heard just like when they pushed for the impeachment of a former governor over corruption, neglect of duty and felony.
The others are still fence sitters.