Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero sent a bill asking senators to make differential pay retroactive to March 14, which is the date of the Public Health Emergency Executive Order 2020-03.
The governor noted that the differential pay she enacted through Executive Order 2020-08 “was narrowly tailored, and fiscally achievable.”
Director of Policy Carlo Branch said the governor’s proposal is also tailored and doesn’t allow the “double pay” that balloons the cost of the vetoed Bill 326-35.
The governor said her proposal is necessary to fulfill her original intent in asking the Legislature for assistance.
“Unfortunately, my authority for such a differential was limited in scope to implementation on a prospective basis,” she writes in her letter to the Legislature. “I asked the legislature to assist me with providing a mechanism for compensating those frontliners and other essential employees retroactively to the start of the public health emergency.”
“I still believe this goal is achievable and I am forwarding a bill for the Legislature’s consideration,” she added.
The governor doesn’t say how much the differential pay is currently costing the government or how much the retroactive pay would cost.
The governor, in her letter to the Legislature, said Bill 326-35, as drafted means “front-liners and other essential employees would be entitled to both double pay and the COVID-19 differential pay initially established by Executive Order No. 2020-08.”
The governor said between the executive order and the possible extension of the public health emergency to July, if the bill were to become law, it would cost an additional $36 million for payroll.
The governor also states that if senators override her veto on this bill, she’d have no choice but to furlough workers.
Overtime plus differential?
Typically, an emergency declaration by the governor also allows for those employees who work through the emergency to earn overtime, hazardous pay and other special pay.
The governor's initial Executive Order 2020-03 declaring a public health emergency provided the same authorization.
Branch said that pay has to be part of a plan approved by the Bureau of Budget Management and Research. But ultimately, someone who is working and earning the hazardous pay, will also get the differential pay as authorized in Executive Order 2020-08 if they're work environment qualifies.
Under the executive order, and as proposed in the legislation sent to senators on Tuesday night, a government employee can earn 10%, 15% or 25% in differential respective to whether they are working during the emergency, working in a situation where they could come into contact with someone who has the virus, or if they're working directly with COVID-19 patients.
Branch said the that differential would be computed using the base pay and not on pay that adds overtime and other factors.