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Bailout bill vote set for Friday at 2pm

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It's all done except for the voting.  After weeks of special sessions, senators have completed debate on a government bailout bill and set Friday at 2pm for the vote. The measure would raise the Business Privilege Tax from 4% to 5%, and also require the island's chief executive to slash $30 million in spending.    

The BPT increase would sunset at the end of this fiscal year on September 30, and then the plan is to implement a 2% sales tax. But the main sticking point was not the tax hike, but the spending cuts, as the governor will have 30 days from enactment to come up with a new fiscal realignment plan.  Senator Frank Aguon Jr. not happy, based on the cuts he's seen so far, with giving Adelup so much leeway, saying, "In my opinion, let's not try to pull a fast one over our people, and I say in my opinion," with Senator Tom Ada saying, "Point of personal privilege, Mr. Chairman, nobody is trying to pull a fast one." Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. said, "It's a point of personal privilege, senator please continue."

"Senator Ada if the shoe fits, then wear it. Because I'm saying that you're giving the governor by virtue of this amendment an option to submit a plan and then all of a sudden the BPT tax is going to increase from 4% to 5% with no real commitment of budgetary reduction for this government."

Senator Ada's rebuttal was, "Are we now questioning eight years later that this governor is not going to be able to make responsible decisions in finding where to reduce $30 million? I hope that's not the case."

And the Governor does say he is committed to cuts, as already outlined in his initial fiscal realignment plan.  Everything remains on the table, including voluntary 32-hour workweeks, and possible mandatory work reductions. He said, "I just signed my sheet for my pay cut. So there's going to be some reductions in several areas. It's going to be very difficult for the major cost cutting for this big gap. But we're going to try our best."

"Give me a roadmap. I'll sign that bill into law and we'll move forward from there."

When asked if furloughs are off the table, he responded, "At this point we have to look at the reality of how difficult it will be for the next few months. At this point until I get more options on the table, the furloughing process must continue."

And while the governor is cautiously optimistic the bill will pass, he questions why it has to take until Friday to prepare the bill for a vote.

He added, "I'm hopeful there is goodwill there and not some sort of nefarious reason for this delay."

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