Welcome to the website of the Vice Speaker for the 32nd Guam Legislature, Senator Benjamin J.F. Cruz.

On this site you can view all of the Senator's introduced Bills and Public Laws, as well as Press Releases from his office; you can also use this site as a starting point to view relevant pages about the island of Guam.

Thank you for visiting.

Cruz Introduces Minimum Wage Bill to Benefit 22,363 VS Refutes Another Minimum Wage Myth

Monday, April 14th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

(April 14, 2014 – Hagåtña) Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz has introduced legislation to responsibly increase minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, that would benefit an estimated 22,363 workers and their families by 2017—with an estimated 7,840 workers seeing the first increase on New Year’s Day 2015, according to the Guam Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since Guam’s minimum wage is not indexed to the cost of living, the minimum wage must be increased legislatively from time to time to make up for the loss in its real value—or purchasing power—by inflation.  Since 1990, the island’s minimum wage has been federally increased eight times without the economic devastation typically predicted by opponents.

A recent point of contention is the false assertion that Cruz’s proposal will increase wages at a rate which is insufficient to compensate for a corresponding decrease in subsidies from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), thus creating a disincentive to earn more.

Figures from the federal Food and Nutrition Service that administers SNAP, colloquially known as the food stamps program, however, say otherwise.  By design, SNAP not only acts as a safety net for the elderly, disabled or temporarily unemployed, but also supplements low-income wages.  As a result of the SNAP benefit calculation rules, SNAP households are financially better off if they are able to secure employment or increase their earnings (see Table 1).

No. of Income Earners

No. of Dependents

Max SNAP, $7.25 (FT)

Income + SNAP, $7.25

Max SNAP, $10.10 (FT)

Δ SNAP

Income + SNAP, $10.10

Δ Wages

Net Increase (éWages, êSNAP)

1

1

$447

$1,607

$355

($92)

$1,709

$254

$162

1

2

$668

$1,828

$576

($92)

$1,990

$254

$162

1

3

$875

$2,035

$783

($92)

$2,197

$254

$162

Table 1. Net increases for SNAP families (monthly expenses of $500 for rent and $200 for utilities) after full-time, minimum-wage earning heads of household receive a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour, based on FNS SNAP Eligibility Screening Tool.

According to national statistics provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP—and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP.  The rates are even higher for families with children—more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.

“The clear majority of people on SNAP work to support themselves and their families; they just don’t earn enough to do it by themselves,” said Cruz, refuting unsubstantiated statements given by public health that were reported by media today.  “We need to ask ourselves the question: Just how much poverty should people be subjected to when working full time?  How poor should their children be?”

Introduced this morning following Cruz’s announcement at the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce’s forum last Thursday, the much-anticipated bill repeals and reenacts a section of the Minimum Wage and Hour Act of Guam’s Fair Labor Standards (22 Guam Code Ann. §3105), requiring employers to pay workers an hourly rate of no less than $8.20 by Jan. 1, 2015; $9.15 by Jan. 1, 2016; and $10.10 by Jan. 1, 2017.

Cruz’s “10-10” proposal will take a phased-in approach, raising the minimum wage 95 cents a year for three years until the hourly rate reaches $10.10 in 2017, a total wage increase of $2.85.

The Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans report that costs for housing (24), food (32), medical care (15), electricity (42), and fuel (26) are all up by double-digit percentages since 2007, but local Department of Labor figures show that the average hourly rate in the private sector has only increased 14.5 percent since the third quarter of 2007 when the first of the last federal three-step wage increase was implemented seven years ago.

“As a judge, I learned that the greatest dangers to the truth are well meaning men who choose to find their conclusions first and their evidence second,” added Cruz.  “If you take an honest look at the facts, review the evidence, and analyze the Guam experience, you will find that an increase in the minimum wage does not kill jobs, cause massive inflation, or outpace public benefits; by giving minimum wage workers and their families a raise; we decrease dependence and increase dignity.”

Bill 316-32(LS) can be found on www.guamlegislature.com.  For more information, please call the Office of the Vice Speaker at 477-2520 or 687-7567.

ComparisonInTotalIncomeAndSnapBenifitsWithMinWageIncrease

Appendix4142014

Economists Support Wage Increase, Reject Job Loss Myths, Cruz to Introduce Bill to Increase Minimum Wage to $10.10

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 at 4:39 pm

(April 10, 2014 – Hagåtña) Following endorsement from both public and private sector economists at the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce (GWCC) wage and compensation forum today, Vice Speaker Benjamin J. F. Cruz announced that he intends to introduce legislation that mirrors the proposed federal wage increase from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by 2017.

According to the Vice Speaker during his speech to GWCC general membership, Cruz has been consulting with Dr. Claret Ruane, Dr. Rosanne Jones, Dr. Joe Bradley, Mr. Gary Hiles and Mr. Albert Perez—all of whom provided evidence that strengthens Cruz’s call for increasing the minimum wage.

“Forty-four, twelve, six; if you forget everything else I say here today, remember those numbers,” Cruz opened, referring the growing number of women who have joined the workforce, which is now 44 percent female; the 12,160 women who live below the poverty line; and the 6,514 families presently living in poverty, 2,874 of which are headed by women with no male contributor present.

Citing alarming aggregates from data collected by both local and federal census, labor and public health agencies, Cruz underscored the rising poverty rates in Guam by emphasizing the diminished purchasing power of the dollar over the last five years that has been compounded by the flatness of Guam’s average hourly wage over said period and the significant increases in living costs.

“[T]oday’s minimum wage would have to be $8.41 an hour just to have the same purchasing power as it did [at the time] the first of three minimum wage increases went into effect in 2007,” Cruz noted, as the audience directed its attention to the graph (see attached Figure 1) in his slideshow presentation, indicating double-digit percentage increases to the cost of housing (24), food (32), medical care (15), electricity (42), and fuel (26) since 2007, according to their Consumer Price Indices (CPI) as reported quarterly by the Bureau of Statistics and Plans (BSP).

“When we are confronted by these truths, we have two choices,” Cruz stated.  “We can ignore the fact that too many women—too many Guamanians—are working harder, earning less, and paying more or we can act boldly, recognizing right as well as reality.”

Cruz’s “10-10” proposal will take a phased-in approach, raising the minimum wage 95 cents a year for three years until the hourly rate reaches $10.10 in 2017.  Cruz stated that “[d]oing so will allow our business community to adjust.”

While economists in the panel were keen to field questions from the audience about the estimated impact of a minimum wage hike, Cruz was quick to dispel misconceptions about raising the minimum wage that was last adjusted to $7.25 in 2009.  “Hourly wages, total employment, and the number of hours worked either held steady or increased when compared to the pre-raise period,” said Cruz, referring to calculations from Guam Department of Labor’s historical data for employment statistics (see attached Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6).  “Put simply, the Guam experience says increasing the minimum wage does not kill jobs or cut hours.”

Referenced documents are attached.  For more information, please call the Office of the Vice Speaker at 477-2520 or 687-7567.

Wage Presentation

PR Minimum Wage GWCC Forum 04102014

###

1

2

3

4

Cruz: ICE Feds Unaware of COFA Deportation Law

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 at 5:11 pm

(January 12, 2014 – Hagåtña) Following up on renewed efforts to seek remedy for the growing and largely uncompensated costs of hosting non-immigrant residents from the Freely Associated States (FAS), Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz flew out to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office in San Francisco, only to discover the incredible: the feds in charge of deportations in Guam were unaware of the very laws they are supposed to enforce.

I wanted to know why those with the power to deport criminals and deadbeats chose to do nothing while our community suffered,” said Cruz.  “It turns out the answer begins with the fact that they didn’t even know they could.

In an hour-long meeting at the ERO San Francisco Field Office last Thursday, Cruz sat down with director Timothy Aiken and deputy director John Martinez to discuss the increasing burden non-immigrant FAS residents place on Guam’s public services, more specifically services for public safety (see Table 1).  According to the 2012 Compact Impact Report published by the Office of the Governor in January 2013, Guam has spent an estimated $125 million in fiscal year 2012 on FAS residents under the Compact of Free Association (COFA), but receives only $15 million annually in federal funds appropriated to cover the impacts of the compact.

Upon mention of his unmet Freedom of Information Act request for documents to quantifiably determine the federal government’s diligence in removing deportable aliens from Guam, Cruz reported that neither the field director nor his deputy had knowledge of federal provisions for deportation of habitual residents under the COFA.

Section 214.7 of Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations details the consequences for habitual residents, defined as FAS citizens admitted to a territory or possession of the United States pursuant to the COFA.  Habitual residents are subject to removal if they have not been self-supporting for more than 60 days, have fraudulently received unauthorized public benefits, or are already subject to removal under immigration law, specifically Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act that lists the classes of deportable aliens and provides grounds for deportation for each class.

According to Cruz, Aiken and Martinez pledged to immediately discuss the issue with Legal and continue their correspondence with the Vice Speaker.  Aiken also proposed that Governor Eddie B. Calvo sign a letter with the Vice Speaker to make the same allegations.

The feds invited people into our house under two conditions: work and contribute or study and make yourself better,” said Cruz.  “When those conditions are not met, that invitation should be revoked under federal law.

In a 2012 survey of Micronesian migrants to CNMI, Guam, Hawaii and the US Mainland conducted at the request of the government of Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), 46 percent of 3,241 responders reported that they did not work at all or had a period of unemployment that exceeded 60 days in 2011.  The report states that only 430 have been deported from the United States and its territories for felonies committed but it does not specify the period in which those deportations occurred or numbers for removals executed for other grounds of deportation under immigration law.

The 2012 Compact Impact Report from the Office of the Governor also shows figures for COFA-related public service expenditures that have skyrocketed over recent years (see Table 2).  Department of Corrections’ intake of FAS residents has increased 29.67 percent, from 873 in 2010 to 1,132 in 2012—which translates to 54,918 client days that cost the government $5.38 million that year.  Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (now Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center) also reported a drastic increase in the intake of FAS resident, from 305 clients in 2010 to 660 in 2012.  In 2010, FAS residents accounted for 11.32 percent of Guam’s total population, while total FAS population in 2012 is estimated at 22,227.

In the coming days and weeks, I am going to work with the Congresswoman’s office to help those with power understand the power that they have,” Cruz added.  “I also want to thank the many young men and women from the Compact states who are studying at GCC or UOG, working in our tourism sector or learning a skilled trade in a brutally competitive economy—you are rarely the subject of a press release but you should be; you are everything good about America and we are proud of you.

The referenced documents are attached.  For more information, call Carlo J. Branch at the Office of the Vice Speaker at 687-7567.

Aggregated data from Reports

Impact of the Compacts of Free Association On Guam FY 2004 to 2012

Hezel & Levin

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