Guam – Lawmakers have removed almost all of the provisions in the governor’s spending cuts bill 507. Yesterday (Weds.) they removed the early retirement provision which would’ve accounted for the majority of savings in the governor’s plan. Today (Thurs.)
they removed the remainder of the bill section by section. instead they added a couple of provisions of their own which in all should result in a little over a million dollars in savings rather than the $71 million that the governor originally proposed.
Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz removed the early retirement provisions of the governor’s spending cuts bill 507 primarily because of the concerns voiced by the retirement fund board of trustees and various retirees like Joseph Guthrie. “I think it would be very embarrassing if the retirement fund joins Mr. Guthrie and other retirees in a lawsuit against the Government of Guam and so I would like them to talk with each other and come back to us because we’re willing to do whatever they think they can do to save some money if it’s not going to result in tying up the courts and running up legal fees,” said Vice-Speaker Cruz.
Instead the bill would require that the governor’s office and retirement fund meet and come back to the legislature with recommendations that will provide savings to the government while protecting the sustainability of the retirement fund.
Although the retirement fund section was the meat of the governor’s cost cutting plan lawmakers didn’t stop here. During the committee of the whole they went through the bill removing provisions section by section. For example they removed the provision that would’ve limited GovGuam leave sharing for guard members and military reservists while on deployment. Senators like Judi Guthertz said they didn’t want to change these benefits especially when the Guam guard is about to deploy over 600 guardsmen and women.
“I respect the governor he is actually the commander in chief of the national guard here and I think he will understand that this has created some serious negative reaction from those guardsmen and reservists who are government employees who are deployed or are about to be deployed it creates a hardship for them and their families and this is not the time to do that,” said Senator Guthertz.
Lawmakers also removed a provision that was intended to prevent GovGuam employees from resigning from the government in order to collect a lump sum payment of accrued leave and then resuming employment with GovGuam the following day. Vice-Speaker Cruz says that while the intent of the bill is good it would actually result in more spending.
“Say some of the legislative employees that are here now and they’re getting nine dollars or ten dollars an hour if they get picked up by the executive and they’re getting twelve or fifteen dollars an hour if they’re not allowed to take their annual leave from here and they decide they’re gonna carry it to the administration and they’re gonna get paid 15 dollars an hour over there if for some reason during the probationary period they don’t work out and they’re made to leave they can cash out all that 200 hours of annual leave that they accumulated while they were here at the legislature and they get paid the fifteen rather than the nine your better off paying off the people at the lower amounts rather than accumulating it for the future,” said Vice-Speaker Cruz.
So what’s left in the spending cuts bill? About a little more than a million dollars in cuts is left. These cuts were added in a provision introduced by Senator Aline Yamashita. The provision is similar to bill 527 which was introduced by Senator Cruz. It implements a ten percent cut for all elected officials and unclassified employees who make at least $50 thousand dollars a year or more.
Also Senator Judi Guthertz added her bill 445 as a rider provision to the spending cuts bill. Bill 445, which was just vetoed by the governor, would require GovGuam to empanel a commission to review all of the current laws rules and regulations of the government of Guam in order to determine which ones are unnecessary and can be repealed. The senator says she removed the provision in the measure that the Governor objected to namely the provision that allows the speaker of the legislature to appoint a member to the commission.
The bill was moved to the second reading file. Lawmakers recessed until 11a.m. tomorrow (Friday) when they are expected to vote on the measure.