4 Oct 2010

CNMI governor nixes House, Senate compromise deal

1:38 pm on 4 October 2010

It has been revealed that the legislature in the Northern Marianas could have passed a budget and put the government shutdown closer to resolution if not for the Executive branch stepping in and stopping a compromise.

As early as Friday afternoon, lawmakers said members of the leadership of the House of Representatives reached an agreement with the Senate for an eight-hour work cut per pay period that would have broken the impasse that has delayed the passage of a 132 million US dollar spending package for Fiscal Year 2011.

The administration of Gov. Benigno R Fitial, however, called members of the House leadership Saturday afternoon purportedly to discuss the so-called gentleman's agreement.

Lawmakers privy to the compromise deal said they were under the impression that the House will finally pass a budget in line with an agreement with the Senate, but the meeting with the administration changed everything as the governor apparently rejected the deal.

On Saturday evening, the House went on to pass a new budget bill that still contained a 16-hour work cut and 13 unpaid holidays but with a sharp cut in the House and Senate leadership account to $50,000 each.

A little while later, the Senate passed a substitute bill that still has an eight-hour cut and 10 unpaid holidays.

This brought the Legislature almost back to where it started on the $132 million spending measure.