‘Need to correct mistakes in salary increase law’


Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) has introduced a House bill to correct the salary increase law, Public Law 19-83, and remove the salary increases of elected officials.

PL19-83 set a new base salary schedule and increased the salary ceiling for classified civil service government employees. It also increased the salaries of all elected officials. It became a law on Jan. 20 even without Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ signature. Then-acting governor Arnold I. Palacios also did not sign it.

Propst said that House Bill 20-39 is a legislative measure that is neither for the minority or the leadership.

“It is beyond party lines. The findings in the bill will explain everything since there are some that are real concerns. For the sake of brevity we limited our findings and other concerns.”

Torres said last week that there was no budget allocated for the increase and reiterated that he is not willing to get the money from other funds.; he’d rather wait if there’s supplemental budget that could be appropriated to fund the increase.

Propst sided with Torres adding that the CNMI even has a debt of $471,758,182 from various agencies, compensations, and judgments.

“I appreciate the efforts of Gov. Torres for coming out and stating that he will not find funding for this.”

“The increase that became law is an unfunded liability. There was no money appropriated. We have based it on future funds that will be generated from BGRT and the casino,” said Propst, who added that there are more pressing issues the Legislature could have acted on.

“We have medical referral program that is always underfunded. We have police officers who are still making $8 an hour with some of them have been working for 20 years or more. Other employees of critical agencies like nurses and firemen have no night differential and hazardous pay,” he said.

“We have a museum that is decrepit, and in dire need of repairs and adequate staffing. There’s no curator to this day and we have to look at our rich history and take care of it. We have a landfill that is filling up quickly. Our Settlement Fund obligation is at $33 million and next year will be $45 million. These are some of the things that we need to address and look into.”

Propst said the government also owes millions of dollars from medical malpractice lawsuits and landowners, some of whom have already died without receiving a single centavo on their land compensation claims.

“While we are addressing this little by little, we still have a huge debt that needs to be settled and we have critical agencies that are in dire need of money.”

Proactive approach

Propst said PL 19-83 also opens the door for lawsuits because of some technicality. “We have taxpayers that are very likely to file a lawsuit because of the technical things that were done wrong. They may have a very strong case but we should not wait for taxpayers’ lawsuits. We should…address this immediately and correct the issues.”

“We must look at our roles as public servants. It must be ‘we before me.’ We can’t give ourselves an 80-percent increase while giving the people who voted for us, the frontline workers, only 5 percent. That is a huge disparity and I find it unfair.”

“We need to have a little bit of fairness. If the consumer price index shows that this is what we deserve as salary then we should not neglect our frontline workers first, the civil servants. Public service requires sacrifice.”

He said the pay increase of 35 elected officials would cost close to $1.14 million annually. It will be a little over $800,000 for the remaining fiscal year 2017 if it ever gets funded.

Propst’s HB 20-39 finds PL 19-51 that established the Advisory Commission on the Compensation for Elected Officials, which was tasked to study and make recommendations in adjusting the elected officials’ salaries, had exceeded the 60-day limit to transmit its report to the Legislature.

The commission also did not meet until October 2016, one month over the timeframe as stated in Section 5 (d) of PL 19-51. The salary increases of the elected officials should be canceled for their failure to act within the timeframe.

Propst’s bill further states that members of the 19th Legislature that were re-elected to serve in the 20th violated the Government Ethics Codee.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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