Guam Senators Slash Governor’s Cost-Cutting Bill
By Jerick Sablan
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 14, 2012) – Instead of coming up with ways to reduce Guam’s government spending, senators yesterday eliminated sections of the governor's spending cuts plan.
Bill 507, Calvo's spending cuts bill, could have brought an estimated savings of $72.7 million, but on Wednesday senators removed sections that dealt with retirement, reducing the amount saved to between $1.5 million and $2 million.
This amount was reduced even further after senators removed sections of the bill related to retirement on Wednesday. Earlier this year, senators removed sections related to Guam Fire Department leave and incentive pay.
Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, whose Committee on General Government Operations has dealt with the bill for several months, made several motions to delete other sections.
Cruz made motions to delete sections that dealt with maternity and paternity leave. Sections 3 and 4 of the bill would have set the amount of leave to industry standard. The administration estimated $135,283 savings from these sections.
The senators also deleted Section 7 which would have limited leave sharing for only medical reasons.
Cruz said hundreds of Guam residents serve the country in the military and leave sharing helps them to not worry about their family back home.
"I don't want one person out there concerned about what's happening at home, but to be focused on what's in front of them and keeping themselves alive," Cruz said.
Senators also struck out sections that would cap the amount of annual leave for all government of Guam employees at 320 hours and create a "use it or lose it" policy for annual leave. Some senators were concerned that some employees earn more than 320 hours such as nurses because they often work long hours and it would be unfair to cap their leave to 320 hours. Currently, nurses can accrue up to 580 hours of annual leave and are able to cash it out.
Senators moved to strike the section dealing with annual leave. The administration estimated the government could save $1,597,106 from eliminating annual leave cash-outs.
With the deletion of these sections, Calvo's spending cuts bill has little savings left.
After the senators made deletions to the bill the Legislature went into recess for the day. They resume at 11 a.m today. It's unclear if they will continue to discuss Bill 507.
Without the governor's spending cuts, GovGuam may have to revisit options such as possible layoffs, furloughs and streamlining of government agencies with the focus on keeping its core missions of providing public safety, health and education services, the governor said.
The Legislature will need to come up with saving plans to substitute for all the deletions they made, Calvo said.
One senator placed an amendment she thinks will help the government save money in the long run.
Sen. Judith Guthertz introduced an amendment to BIll 507. The amendment, which in essence is vetoed Bill 445, would create a commission to review the government's laws and mandates and delete those that are outdated or unimportant. This would save money in the long run, she said.
Senators passed the bill last month but Calvo vetoed it, saying provisions in the bill would violate the separation of powers.
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