Guam – Civil servants in the CNMI have been told to brace themselves for a government shutdown because of the Legislature’s failure to pass a balanced budget for fiscal year 2011.
In case of a shutdown, majority of the islands’ 4,000 government employees won’t get paid from Oct. 1 and 8, or at least until a new budget is passed.
This, as a legislative conference committee on the budget bill failed yet again to come up with at least a draft version of a budget bill as of yesterday afternoon, a little over a week before the start of fiscal year 2011.
Lawmakers, including Sen. Luis Crisostimo, expressed disappointment that the conference committee could not even report or share with other lawmakers the progress of their closed-door meetings, which began last week.
The committee has six members: chairman Rep. Ramon Basa, Vice Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro, Rep. Eli Cabrera, Sen. Jovita Taimanao, Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider, and Sen. Ralph Torres.
Only essential employees in critical service agencies will be exempt from a government shutdown, should the Legislature fail to pass a balanced budget before Oct. 1, 2010.
The administration of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial is expected to soon finalize a list of critical/essential positions exempted from the shutdown.
This means those who are not on the list of exempt employees or those in critical/essential service positions will not get paid until a budget is passed. Even lawmakers will not get paid until they pass a balanced budget.
Fitial had said he is prepared to do whatever the Constitution requires him to do.
If the Legislature also fails to pass a new law defining “essential services,” then the governor will be the one to define the term.
Meanwhile, the conference committee has yet to decide whether to cut government work hours by 16 or eight per pay period. Government work hours are 80 per pay period.