In a retort to Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz singling him out as responsible for cutting Tinian's budget, Rep. Ramon S. Basa (Cov-Saipan) said the decision to slash the island's appropriation was made by the entire House Way and Means Committee.
“For the mayor to come out and say that I did it alone and that I took away their funding, that's unfounded. It's the committee that decided and I don't vote alone. This is a democratic process and we're not in a communist country,” said Basa in an interview with the Saipan Tribune.
“People should understand that, although I'm the chairman, any decision that has to be made is a collective decision and not just mine. That needs to be cleared,” he added.
Under the 36-page House Bill 17-313 prefiled last July 11, Tinian was allocated $4.566 million or $471,093 less than the $5.037 million originally earmarked by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial in his $114-million budget submission to the House of Representatives.
Although Basa is the main author of the House budget bill, he said the decision to reallocate the close to half a million dollars taken from Tinian and spread it out to agencies in more dire need was decided by all 12 members of the House and Ways Committee.
Aside from Basa, other members of the committee are Vice Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro (Cov-Saipan), Rep. George Camacho (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Trenton Conner (R-Tinian), Rep. Fredrick Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Rafael Demapan Jr. (Cov-Saipan), Rep. Sylvestre Iguel (Cov-Saipan), Rep. Janet Maratita (R-Saipan), Rep. Joseph Palacios (R-Saipan), Rep. Raymond Palacios (Cov-Saipan), Rep. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota), Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), and Rep. Ray Yumul (R-Saipan).
Although he applauds Dela Cruz for his work to improve the tourism industry on Tinian, Basa said he didn't see any concrete plans to support giving Tinian additional funds.
“If they say they're in need of additional money to improve their tourism industry, then maybe that's something that needs to be put on the table,” he said.
On the matter of the Marianas Visitors Authority receiving less funding for fiscal year 2013, Basa said this is because the tourism body stands to get additional funding from the so-called $15 hotel tax.
“There's the hotel tax [environmental promotional fee] that we're going to charge.that money will go to MVA for their purposes. That revenue is going strictly to MVA for promotional, destination enhancement, clean up our tourist sites, provide security and safety,” he said.
Under the House's proposed budget bill, MVA will get only $1.575 million, $550,000 less than the $2.125 million originally set aside by the Executive Branch.