While majority of employees in the Government of Guam have their increments frozen this fiscal year, the actions from the elected senators in the 35th Guam Legislature have continued to forget them. As the Legislature completes its third week, several spending bills take money away from the General Fund, causing the finances of the government to become more unstable. Without a remedy to reach financial sustainability and reinstate increments, the senators should withhold their bills that raid the General Fund.
The pay scale for the Government of Guam makes use of low starting wages (compared to its national average) that increases through “catch up” increments to shrink the massive pay difference that an employee can earn by moving to the mainland. Even if the increment system were left intact, the wage disparity on Guam is sorely behind its national average. NEA Research (2017) reported that the average public school teacher salary for 2015-16 was $58,353 while Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average high school teacher on Guam earns nearly $10,000 less. The starting wages of teachers and other government workers on Guam lag further behind because these employees do not have their years of service to build their salaries through the (now frozen) “catch-up” increments. Without these increments, about ten thousand government workers will never come close to catching up to their national counterparts.
If the eventual goal is to reduce BPT from 5% to 4% and reduce the taxes at the fuel pump (Bill 9-35 and 10-35, respectively), then the appropriate first step to take is ending the unrestrained government spending. Reducing the amount of money coming into the government before cutting expenses makes the government go into debt quicker. Placing cameras around Guam as a deterrent to crime sounds like an innovative idea (Bill 20-35); however, this is borrowed money at the expense of denying increments to about ten thousand employees and textbooks for students. Guam is already financially broke, so do not break it further. Instead, find a way to generate revenue like Bill 17-35 (increases tax on gaming devices), or make the necessary cuts like Bills 6-35 and 21-35 (reduces/eliminates retirement benefits for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Legislature of Guam).
The veteran employees of Guam already suffered through a botched implementation of a pay scale by seeing a whole nickel increase for the year. Now, the employees are denied their increments to catch up to the national average. Guam already has many vacancies in teaching positions at the start of every school year. Denying increments will further hurt the recruitment and retention efforts of the Guam Department of Education and other government agencies.