Gov. Ralph DLG Torres last Friday signed a bill that addresses the long-standing debt owed to government employees after the House of Representatives recalled a previous version of the bill early September 2017.
Now known as Public Law 20-16, Torres signed into law a bill that seeks to retroactively pay government employees whose salaries got stuck on Step 12, despite receiving promotions during the financial austerity measures back in the early 2000s.
“With the economy growing and new businesses coming in, this allows us to pay for obligations such as this among others,” he said, citing the Commonwealth government’s obligation to pay a minimal annual amount to the retirement fund.
“If our economy has not grown this much, there is no way we would be able to meet this obligation,” said Torres.
Torres said last Friday that he has already contacted Department of Finance Secretary Larissa Larson and that the amounts would be worked on this week.
“If your name is on the list, [please be] one more week patient,” said Torres, assuring that the “funds are there”.
Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), author of the bill and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, noted that PL 20-16 was a “continuation of PL 19-75,” a law that appropriated over $40 million of supplemental funding to various government agencies. PL 19-75, authored by former representative Antonio Sablan, also addressed government employees who got stuck in Step 12, however the Office of Personnel Management discovered that there were many more who were not included in the list.
OPM added a total of 337 employees since the passage of PL 19-75.
“There were some folks that were not detected in the screening process, so OPM came back and tried to … make the list complete,” said Torres, adding that anyone who believes that they should be on the list should contact OPM for review.
“The whole idea here is to do a retroactive payment to employees stuck in Step 12 back in the day,” he said.
According to Torres, the 337 employees PL 20-16 addressed is the “last batch” of employees whose salaries were stuck in Step 12.
Vice speaker Janet Maratita (R-Saipan) introduced House Bill 20-120, a bill that seeks to address employee salaries that got stuck at lower pay grades during the financial austerity measures. No particular House actions have been taken on the bill as of publication.