Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone responded Thursday to Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s recent emergency budget measure proposals, including a three-month extension of unpopular 8 percent pay cuts, saying the Legislature will work to solve the problem, but he decried deJongh’s tone and questioned extending the pay cut.
Earlier this week, deJongh sent a letter and proposed legislation to Malone and issued a statement saying there is a $19 million dollar gap in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. DeJongh proposed three stopgap legislative measures this week: extending the unpopular 8 percent government pay cut; authorizing bank funding to bridge the shortfall; and funding health insurance premiums to the end of the fiscal year. He praised Malone for "his genuine efforts at cooperation and communication," but the governor also criticized the Legislature for not doing more, sooner, saying he is "disappointed that our efforts have not led to more constructive action and legislation by the 30th Legislature."
In a statement deJongh said, "As of today, very little progress has been made by the Senate to help chart a realistic financial path forward, despite the many meetings I have held with the senators – that included our lieutenant governor and the delegate – to outline our Fiscal Year 2013 shortfalls. In addition, my financial team has met with the Committee on Finance, either individually or collectively, to highlight our financial issues without any proactive results."
If the Legislature does not act, deJongh said he would be forced to "reduce payroll," meaning more government layoffs.
Malone said the Legislature is working with and would continue to work with Government House, but the Senate president took exception to what he termed the "threat" of layoffs and to deJongh laying blame at the feet of the Legislature.
"The continued threats of layoffs from Governor deJongh are unacceptable given our situation," Malone said. "We, as well as the governor’s financial team, know this will simply compound our problems. We must restore the appropriate contributions to GERS and we also need these dollars to circulate within our economy.”
“I believe the governor’s statements Wednesday were detrimental, unwarranted and unnecessary at this time and I challenge many of his assertions.” Malone continued. “We have yet to exhaust all options and, as of today, senators have not even received complete access to the financial data we have requested."
The majority caucus met Wednesday in order to work out a comprehensive strategy for reducing the budgetary shortfall in a way that allows the restoration of government employees’ salaries, according to Malone’s office. The Legislature plans to address the deficit prior to the Legislative session scheduled for June 24. That session will be preceded by a Finance Committee meeting to deal with the deficit on June 18.
"We have given the governor everything he has asked for, to include the ability to draw monies from any government funding source, in order to meet our fiscal needs," Malone said. "Yet senators have not been granted full access to our government’s financial data. We are still awaiting the basic information we requested last Friday and the legislation we passed to grant senators real time access to government financial data was vetoed by the governor himself.”
“The real issue here is that the 30th Legislature simply will not rubberstamp the governor’s requests," Malone said.