DOWNSIZING THE LEGISLATURE
Having read the article in the Saipan Tribune of July 31 it prompted me to dig into files that I have been working on for months to propose a reduction in the size of the Legislature.
According to the 2010 census the total number of people residing in the CNMI is now 53,883. This number is made up of the following:
I suggest that we have one House Member for every 5,000 residents living on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. Based on this formula Rota will be entitle to one House of Representatives member; Tinian will have one House of Representatives member; and Saipan and the Northern Islands will have nine House of Representatives members.
Total number of representatives would be 11 members. The term of House members should be four years with a maximum of two terms.
Each Senatorial District should have one senator or a total of three senators. The lieutenant governor shall act as the presiding officer of the Senate. Similarly, the term of a senator should be for four years with a maximum of two terms.
Based on these terms, it will accord the new generation to have a chance to serve and infuse new and modern ideas into the political and economic spectrum of the CNMI.
The CNMI is in serious financial crisis. Its financial obligations continue to mount while the resource is barely enough to meet its payroll. We are in a serious “deficit spending” and based on available data the cumulative deficit spending since 1986 to date is about $350 Million. This is a very serious financial dilemma that must be dealt with by each and every one of us. The Retirement Fund is shouldering the bulk of this financial deficiency.
I have heard many discussions about what can we do to turn-around the deteriorating economic situation. Before we can begin talking about how to improve our economy we must first identify and take corrective measures of our internal deficiencies. I conclude that the “bloated” size of our government is really the main cause of the financial dilemma that we are presently experiencing. The choices available to us are not simple but must be undertaken; reduction in the overall size of the government. While I am aware that there have been some measures taken to temporarily cope with the declining resources we need to cut down to a realistic level so we can continue to provide public services and operate within our means.
Reduce the number of days for each session of the Legislature to say, 10 working days per quarter. This means that each fiscal year the both Houses will convene a total of 40 days per fiscal year.
The Legislative Bureau should be amply staffed with attorneys, secretaries, and other professionals to provide support to the members of both Houses. The bureau should operate full time to handle the workload of the Legislature. The director of the Bureau will also be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Legislature including the fiscal accountability of Legislative budget.
Each House member would receive $200 a day while in session. Senators would each receive $225 a day while in session and is broken down as follows”
House Per Quarter Total Annual
11 House members $22,000 $88,000
3 Senate members $6,750 $27,000
Recommended number of staff for the Legislative Bureau is:
Director of Bureau 1
Secretarial work 8
Sergeant at arms 2
Provide funding for both Houses of the Legislature of no more than $1.5 Million each fiscal year. With this level of funding I am confident that our Legislative Branch of our government can operate efficiently. For now however, let's concentrate on the size of our Legislature. Over the past 26 years, the Legislature have been operating with a budget of anywhere from $6 to $9 Million annually.
We must not fear to face the reality that has rotted our economic well-being. We must itemize these deficiencies and work toward resolving them. Once we find solutions, let us apply them to solve our problems. Some of you might not agree with my recommended theory and if you have one that might work better bring it to the table and let us analyze it.
I am presently looking at the Executive Branch also as I feel that there might be ways to operate it with less money and possibly improve its efficiency. I would strongly recommend that each department head be required to cut the cost of operating its department without jeopardizing the efficiency of public services they provide.
Let it be known that I am merely exercising my right as a taxpayer and a citizen of this great Commonwealth.
David M. Sablan, Sr.