Lawmakers’ salaries kept at $39K —for now

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Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Naraja released yesterday the written joint agreement that would keep lawmakers’ salary at $39,000 per annum until January 2019 or until a new salary increase recommendation is made.

Last Wednesday, the Superior Court resumed proceedings in the Manibusan v. Larson case and determined whether the 80-percent salary increase for lawmakers should be deemed void from the very beginning (starting from the salary increases enacted in Public Law 4-32) or prospectively.

The Superior Court deemed the salary increase void from the very beginning, starting from the salary increases enacted in Public Law 4-32. That would leave lawmakers with salaries of just $8,000 per annum.

During the proceeding of the case, the Department of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General came to an agreement to keep the current lawmakers’ salaries at $39,000 per annum until January 2019 instead of immediately cutting the salary of lawmakers to $8,000 per annum.

According to the stipulation, Finance Secretary Larissa Larson is permanently enjoined from making any salary adjustments pursuant to Public Law 19-83 (the 80-percent pay hike).

The stipulation also states that if a new advisory commission is not established by the second week of January 2019 and a new salary increase is not recommended, the secretary of Finance is ordered to reduce salary payments for members of the 21st CNMI Legislature to $8,000 per annum.

The parties also agreed that from and after the second Monday of January 2019, the Finance secretary is permanently enjoined from paying legislative salaries pursuant to either P.L. 4-32 or P.L. 7- 31. The current legislative salary is pursuant to P.L. 7-31.

Lastly, the parties agreed that the advisory commission would base its next salary increase recommendations on the difference between an accepted composite price index for the period between January 1978 and the date of the recommendation.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, the CNMI Supreme Court ruled last Aug. 30 that the 80-percent pay hike enacted through P.L. 19-83 violates the CNMI Constitution by failing to provide the requirements needed to enact a legislative pay hike.

After reviewing the petitions of both parties involved in the Manibusan v. Larson case, the Supreme Court ruled that the legislative increase enacted by P.L. 19-83 (as well as previous public laws enacting legislative salary hikes) was unconstitutional because it contravened at least one of the mandates in Section 10 of the CNMI Constitution.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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