Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan) is opposing moves to increase the annual salaries of some employees under the Office of the Public Defender.
Guerrero, speaking in last week’s House of Representatives session, said this is a thing of concern. “I’m kind of concerned that we are at this stage and time where the CNMI cash flow is very short. And yet we continue to receive communication from the administration [about] increasing salaries for an assistant attorney general”
In the Governor’s Communication 21-47, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres certified and allowed an annual salary of $60,000 for one assistant public defender—which did not sit well with Guerrero.
“And now we see this for the Public Defender’s Office again increasing another assistant public defender to $60,000? If this agency has the money, I think the governor should look into them and take that funding and use it to fill the shortfall of other agencies,” he said.
Guerrero said this is not the right time to increase salaries. “It is not right when everybody is hurting and we see a salary increase for lawyers that probably can share the same pain as everybody else,” he added.
House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) asked the Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), to look into this issue when they begin deliberations on the CNMI’s fiscal year 2020 budget.
“I would to ask the…committee—when you start deliberating on the budget process—to please review line by line on each and every employee’s salaries. So we can determine if, in the future, after we adopt the fiscal year 2020 budget, we can trace which agency is subject to a request for an increase of salaries,” said Attao.
The committee’s budget deliberations and hearings will soon begin after the House also passed House Concurrent Resolution 21-1 that approves the revenues and resources of the CNMI for fiscal year 2020, which begins on Oct. 1 this year.