CNMI Shutdown Day 7: House and Senate Still Far Apart on Work Hour Cuts

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Guam – As the CNMI government entered its seventh day of shutdown, the House of Representatives and the Senate have yet to agree on work hour cuts for civil servants in the $132 million fiscal year 2011 budget bill.

The lower chamber yesterday introduced the fourth and latest budget bill and it called for a 16-hour work cut. It passed on a 12-7 vote early in the afternoon.

Shortly before 9pm, the Senate passed the House bill but not before amending work hour cut to reflect 12 hours, which was four hours more than its original proposal of eight.

Despite the argument in work hour cuts, the two houses have settled on 13 unpaid holidays, a leadership account of $138,000 apiece for the House and Senate, lawmaker’s annual discretionary allowance of $85,000 each, as well as funding levels for Northern Marianas College and the Public School System.

The latest budget bill goes back to the House and it is again up to the lower chamber to accept or reject the Senate-amended bill.

In the meantime, more than 1,000 government employees continue to be out of jobs and as if the situation wouldn’t get any worse, even those exempted from the shutdown face another payless payday tomorrow