by Bob Coldeen, for KUAM News
Guam - Four days past deadline, lawmakers in the CNMI still have not agreed on a budget. And as a result, the government shutdown continues.
Still no solution to the budget crisis. The house and senate convened over the weekend. Saturday evening house members passed yet another version of a budget bill...and the senate immediately amended that version. Now two bills sit before the house. But today....no action was taken. "I'm not at liberty at this time to tell the public what we're going to do because we just started working on it," said House Speaker Froilan Tenorio.
As the bill remains pending in the house, 1,400 government employees are barred from going to work. "Why not act today? Each day means another government shutdown. I know that...that's why I told committee members I don't care if you have to work overnight you have to work on this."
Lawmakers say they believed both parties reached a breakthrough agreement - until the governor got involved. Diego Benavente, House Minority Leader, said, "When we were told there was an agreement we were all excited, by 2 o'clock we were told well the gov didn't like that agreement so that agreement was off the table." And representative Joe Guerrero said, "It makes you almost think that this agreement that somebody doesn't want an agreement between the house and the senate intentionally. So that we will continue to have a shutdown on Monday. So the administration can save more money."
And lawmakers say the governor's meddling into their affairs infringes on the power of the Legislative Branch.
The governor's administration denies they have control over the house majority. Angel Demapan, Governor's Press Secretary, said, "That's pure speculation, the majority of the house are experienced leaders, former governor, former lawmakers, they have minds of their own. The administration always offers their advice and recommendations but at the end of the day it's the lawmakers themselves who will make that conscientious decision for the people."
The first government shutdown in the commonwealth's history will carry on until a budget is passed into law. "I think the speaker should consider the urgency of this matter by not acting on it...gives the impression that there's an intentional delay," said Senator Pete Reyes.Senate President Paul Manglona added, "If the house doesn't know this is serious, lets go out to the community people are screaming at us. They don't care...get to work do your job and pass a budget."