Inside the numbers: the latest legislative staffing pattern
by Ken Wetmore, KUAM News
When budget oversight hearings resume, lawmakers will be holding department and agencies accountable for how they spend your money. Senators will be looking to see if the non-critical agencies can trim their budgets so that education, public safety, and public health get at least modest increases.
The Democrat leadership of the Legislature has been critical of new hires within the Executive Branch by the Camacho Administration and has been outspoken about the Governor's Office's staffing pattern. The last time KUAM News looked at the Legislature's staffing pattern was at the beginning of June of last year.
Between June of 2003 and April of this year, eight senators have seen increases in their office staff and eleven have seen increases in their payroll. Democrat Senator John Quinata tops the list on both counts. His office staff has increased by six since June of 2003 and his payroll has increased by over $110,000. The first-time policymaker says the reason is because a year ago he was in a temporary office and didn't have the space for a full staff, but has since moved into a permanent office. He also points out he has also been given oversight of the Attorney General's Office since last year.
"I've kept within my budget," he stated. "I could see if I went over what was allotted to me. I kept within the budget I moved monies from parts of my operational costs and so forth to keep in line with what I have. If I were to go over what was allotted to me then there would be a question of overspending but I haven't even come close that."
While new hires account for Quinata's total payroll increase, other senators have given raises to some of their staff. Vice Speaker Frank Aguon, Jr., whose committee oversees budgeting and appropriations for the Government of Guam, has given raises to several employees within his Office of Finance and Budgeting. KUAM News asked Aguon if he thought that making such pay adjustments might be a slap in the face to the Guam Police Department, to Guam's public sector teachers and to the numerous others who have their increments frozen.
He responded by saying, "I think in this case when you look at the nature of the work of my personnel I made a decision to be very, very conservative at the onset and then I made a decision to readjust their pay accordingly base on the importance of the work that they're producing."
Comparing last years staffing pattern, it appeared to KUAM News that central operations has also seen an increase in personnel, with five new positions and an almost $121,000 increase in total payroll. Senator Lou Leon Guerrero's Rules Committee oversees the Legislature's central operations and she says five maintenance personnel were left off our the staffing pattern but have been employed with the Legislature since January of 2003.
"The $120,000 is like I said from those five maintenance people that I know where on board since January of last year," she asserted, "and their average salary is about $10/hour, and you work that out, its about $20,000. That's five people plus their benefits that's roughly will explain the $120,868.80 increase."
It should be pointed out that Senator Leon Guerrero has actually reduced her office's payroll by almost $11,000. Yet the senator points out her eleven other colleagues who have increased their payrolls are still within their budgets. "I have not seen overruns of the budget. Some offices have you know contained even way below their budget. I know the Speaker's Office is way below budget in expenditures," maintained Leon Guerrero.
"My office, as well as Senator [Randy] Cunliffe's office, Senator Joanne Brown's office, Senator [Bob] Klitzkie's office, and Senator [Mark] Forbes' office, so for the most part everyone has been within their budget and even below their budget."
KUAM News asked if that meant the Legislature would reduce its budget in Fiscal Year 2005, since it didn't need everything from FY04. Senator Leon Guerrero said the Legislature may consider that but expects the body will keep the budget status quo.
Taking a closer look at a breakdown of the Legislature's staffing pattern, there are eight senators who have more staff members than a year ago. As mentioned earlier, Senator John Quinata tops the list at six, followed by Senator Carmen Fernandez with four. With two new positions in their offices are senators Rory Respicio and Toni Sanford. Vice Speaker Frank Aguon, Jr., Senator Lou Leon Guerrero, Senator Tina Muna-Barnes and Senator Ray Tenorio all had one new position.
Turning to payroll increases, Senator Quinata saw an increase of over $110,000, Senator Respicio's payroll increased by more than $93,000, and Senator Sanford's went up by more than $51,000. Coming in fourth, Vice Speaker Aguon office and the Office of Financing and Budget that he runs saw a combined increase of just over $50,000.
The Republican Minority Leader is fifth, as Senator Mark Forbes' payroll increased by just under $49,000 annually. Next is Senator Fernandez with an increase of $44,000. Senator Jesse Anderson Lujan increased his payroll by $31,000 and Senator Muna-Barnes increased by just under $23,000. Senator Tenorio increased his payroll by over $17,000, with fellow Republican Senator Joanne Brown, seeing an increase of $14,000.
Rounding out the group of eleven is Senator Randy Cunliffe with a $1,000 annual increase.
Only two senator's staffing patterns didn't change over the last year, as Speaker Ben Pangelinan and Senator Robert Klitzkie remained status quo. Two senators saw decreases in their staff, as both Senator Cunliffe and Senator Larry Kasperbauer decreased their staff by a single position.
The only two senators who actually decreased their payroll were senators
Kasperbauer and Leon Guerrero, by just over $31,000 and nearly $11,000,
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