The Fitial administration is poised to submit to the Legislature a fiscal year 2014 budget of $114 million-the same level as the current fiscal year, according to Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos yesterday.
Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee vice chair Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan) separately said yesterday that having a “baseline figure” at this time is good, and knowing that it's not going to be lower than the current budget.
Inos said government work hours will remain at 80 hours biweekly, but that agencies will still be required to live within their means.
“Between now and the time we submit the budget, it will still be $114 million. But keep in mind, we still have time until July to make an amendment to the budget,” Inos told Saipan Tribune.
Last year, the administration revised its fiscal year 2013 budget plan from $102 million to $114 million.
While the impeachment trial against Gov. Benigno R. Fitial will be in full swing in March, Inos would be working on the administration's budget submission to the Legislature.
The administration has an April 1 deadline to submit a new spending package.
He said the $114 million budget plan means the administration does not see further activity that would change the initial projection. Inos said the 2013 budget already took into account the tourism arrival improvements that the CNMI is now seeing.
“We put that in our calculations. Number two, we're in peak season right now. So end-March, early April, traditionally it starts slowing down,” Inos said.
One major change in the proposed 2014 budget is that the administration will propose a certain budget for each agency's utility bills instead of providing a lump sum government utility budget.
“We're going to say you have to have budget to cover it, and that's it. Right now, there's attitude that it's not affecting their budget so no [utility use] conservation,” he said.
Inos said Medicaid spending should also be within limit, citing the implementation of a so-called certified public expenditure or CPE, “where CHC's expense is treated as match.”
Yumul, for his part, said the lieutenant governor's statement about the budget for the next fiscal year is a “starting point.”
“We have increased number of flights and arrivals. At least we know now that it's not going to be lower than the current budget of $114 million. We have a baseline now. But the Legislature would also call in the Marianas Visitors Authority, for example, to provide more information about their projections. We are also looking at trying to help resolve the issues with the Retirement Fund. All these things will be considered by the Legislature,” he said last night.
Yumul, a former House member and at one time a House Ways and Means Committee chair, also said it's a relief that government employees don't have to worry whether they will face yet another round of work hour cuts. But he said the government still has to be prudent and at the same time find means to increase revenue.
Fiscal year 2014 runs from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014.
Just a few years back, the CNMI government's annual budget reached over $200 million.