Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and the leadership of the House of Representatives will sit down today to talk about Public Law 19-83.
Among the issues on the agenda is the new base salary schedule and increased salary ceiling for classified civil service government employees and increasing the salaries of all elected officials.
PL 19-83 became a law on Jan. 20 even without Torres’ signature since he was in Washington, D.C. where he met with congressional leaders and officials of the National Governors Association while also attending the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump.
House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan) introduced House Bill 19-3 that was transmitted to the Governor’s Office for signing on Dec. 12 after the House and Senate passed it unanimously. It just stayed on Torres’ desk for more than a month.
All civil service employees had already received their 5-percent increase in their salaries, as it was in the fiscal year 2017 budget, leaving the portion for the legislators’ pay hike unfunded.
Torres said there is no budget for the increase and he is not willing to cut the central government’s budget appropriation for fiscal year 2017. “We have to cut somewhere or on their own [funds] if there’s no additional revenue for it.”
“If there’s a supplemental budget that could be identified, then that could help fund it. We’re going to meet and talk about that and other issues, like with the hospital,” added Torres.
Demapan said Tuesday that Torres could have vetoed the bill instead of allowing it to become a law. Legislators, both members of the House and Senate, were supposed to receive the increase this coming payday. Instead, it is on hold until a funding source is identified, either by Torres or the Legislature.
PL 19-83 would increase the legislators’ annual salaries from $39,300 to $70,000, with close to $800,000 needed to fund the pay hike in the last seven months of the fiscal year 2017. The wage hike will have no problems for fiscal year 2018 as money could be appropriated by the House Ways and Means Committee, which is tasked to prepare the bill for the CNMI budget.
The governor and lieutenant governor will be receiving $120,000 and $100,000 each based on PL 19-83, which was recommended by the Advisory Commission tasked to study the pay hike. The salary of the municipal mayors is pegged at $75,000.
In other news, Torres chose three appointees that would become members of the governing board of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.; he is in the process of interviewing candidates for the CNMI Veterans Affairs director post after former head Gregorio M. Sablan Jr. was elected to the House of Representatives last election.
In addition, Torres has yet to name the replacement of former Commonwealth Superior Court associate judge David A. Wiseman, who retired in May last year.