CNMI Shutdown Day 8: Speaker Wants House Session to Act on Budget Impasse

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Guam – The House of Representatives is expected to hold a session either today or tomorrow to act on amendments made by the Senate on the fourth and latest version of the $132 million budget bill for fiscal year 2011.

This developed as reports circulated that the House is looking at Tuesday or Wednesday next week to hold a session and discuss the appropriations measure.

The Senate last Wednesday amended the latest budget bill earlier passed by the House. It reflected work hour cuts of 12 instead of the 16 proposed by the lower chamber.

The sparring at the Legislature comes as the CNMI government marked the eighth day of partial shutdown because of a lack of a balanced budget passed and signed into law by the Sept. 30 deadline.

As a result, over 1,000 civil servants have been unable to report to work until the House and Senate resolve their differences on the budget bill.

In other news, a $300,000 independent desk audit revealed that a number of divisions at the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs are overstaffed and have positions that are unjustifiable.

Speaker wants House session today or tomorrow to act on budget bill

House Speaker Froilan C. Tenorio said yesterday that a House session should be held either today or tomorrow, and not Tuesday or Wednesday, hoping that the impasse on the $132 million budget bill will be resolved and the partial government shutdown lifted.

Today marks the eighth day of the partial CNMI government shutdown because of a lack of a balanced budget passed and signed into law by the Sept. 30 deadline.

As a result, over 1,000 government employees have been unable to report to work until the House and Senate resolve their differences on the budget bill.

The House’s fourth and latest budget bill, House Bill 17-122, House Draft 2, passed the Senate with amendments including work hour cuts, on Wednesday night.

It is again up to the House to accept or reject the Senate-amended budget bill.

But the House leadership did not call for a session yesterday to act on the spending bill.

This drew criticism from the House minority members and the Senate who reiterated that the House seems to take the budget lightly while government employees now have difficulty feeding their families and paying their bills.

Senate President Paul Manglona separately said “it is difficult to comprehend what the House is thinking when people are screaming and fed up with the lack of a budget bill passed” seven days into the shutdown yesterday, and yet there’s no immediate call for a House session.

“They are taking a laid-back approach. I understand they might call for a session on Tuesday. Monday is a holiday. I hope that’s not the case and they hold a session a least on Friday (today),” he said.

Tenorio said a House leadership meeting is set for this morning.

“I am going in that meeting with the idea of having a session Friday or Saturday. There’s no way I can wait until Tuesday or Wednesday. If there’s a plan to hold a session next week, that directive is not from me. It may have come from the governor,” he said.

Vice Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro and other members of the House leadership again met with the governor yesterday.