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    Saturday, May 25, 2019-9:46:11P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Commission looks into various ways of calculating pay hike for NMI officials

SIX of the seven members of the newly established Advisory Commission met on Monday to discuss the different methods that will be used to calculate a pay hike for executive, legislative and judiciary officials in the Commonwealth.

The members are Tan Holdings vice president Alex A. Sablan, Office of Management and Budget chief Virginia Villagomez, former Sen. Pete P. Reyes, Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, legislative fiscal analyst Dave Demapan, attorney and former Rep. Rosemond B. Santos and administration consultant Matthew Deleon Guerrero.

They met at 10 a.m., Monday, in the governor’s conference room and elected Alex Sablan as chairman. Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero was absent.

Also attending the meeting were House legal counsel Joe Taijeron and the governor’s legal counsel Gilbert J. Birnbrich.

Alex Sablan said they will invite the attorney general or his representative to the next meeting which is set for Monday, Oct. 29.

Sablan said they want to ensure that the AG is familiar with their discussions, adding that they may also seek legal advice from the AG.

On Monday, the commissioners asked fellow member and legislative fiscal analyst Dave Demapan to provide an analysis of various methodologies in determining  wage-hike calculations.

The commissioners said they want to make sure that they use an accurate method in determining  wage-hike rates.

In an interview, Sablan said: “The reasonable assumption is that wages are going to be increased and that we have to look into the calculations made in 1978, 1992 and 2016 as well as the consumer price index.”

Sablan said they want to come up with  a recommendation within 30 days. “We are hopeful that in the next couple of weeks we can actually come up with a plan as to how we are going to calculate the pay increase,” he added.

Last month, the Superior Court  ordered the Department of Finance to “reduce the salary payments for members of the 21st Legislature to $8,000 [from $39,000] per annum if, on the second Monday of January 2019, the new advisory commission established by law has not recommended a new salary increase, or any such recommendation has not been enacted into law in conformance with the procedure explained in the recent ruling of the CNMI Supreme Court.”

The Superior Court said the advisory commission must base its salary recommendation on the difference between an accepted composite price index for the period between Jan. 1978 and the date of its recommendation.

The current salaries of CNMI elected officials were set by Public Law 7-31 enacted in June 1991.

P.L. 19-83 increased the salaries of lawmakers by 80 percent, but the issue of its constitutionality was submitted to the CNMI Supreme Court as a certified question by Attorney General Edward Manibusan and Secretary of Finance Larrisa Larson.

In September, the local high court ruled that the salary increases for government officials pursuant to Public Laws 4-32, 7-31, and 19-83 violated Article II, Section 10 of the CNMI Constitution.

According to the high court, an advisory commission should “1) choose a composite price index or CPI; 2) review the percentage change of that CPI for the period since the last salary change; and 3) make a salary recommendation that falls within the percentage change.”