Gov. Eloy S. Inos said yesterday that the $123.4-million budget bill from the Legislature may not be a perfect bill because of expenditure concerns, among other things, but it’s a workable one.
“What bothers me is that when we take money from one agency and give it to the other agency, it’s the application of the funds in the latter agency that concerns me. Sometimes you wonder about priority,” Inos said in an interview with Saipan Tribune.
While the administration has not issued any directive on austerity, he said “we are still under austerity.”
The governor has started reviewing the fiscal year 2014 budget bill that the House and Senate passed on Wednesday.
The budget bill went through a six-member conference committee that hashed out the differences between the House and Senate versions.
“Certainly, we were not a part of the compromise between the House and Senate. I think it’s a workable budget. I have to look into it further,” the governor added.
The governor, however, noted that the Legislature’s passage of the bill this week gives him time to carefully review the spending package before the Oct. 1 start of fiscal year 2014.
Because the Legislature has passed the budget bill this week instead of close to the end of fiscal year 2013 on Sept. 30, no government shutdown is expected.
House Ways and Means Committee chair Tony Sablan (Ind-Saipan) and Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) thanked their fellow conferees for working together to come up with a compromise budget bill that is acceptable to both houses.
It was the smoothest budget process at the Legislature since at least 2010 when a deadlock between the House and Senate on a 2011 budget bill resulted in a partial government shutdown. That sent home over a thousand government employees for days.
The governor also encourages the Legislature to move revenue-generating bills to be able to comply with the funding needs under a tentatively approved NMI Retirement Fund settlement agreement, restore an expected 25 percent deferred pension, while not losing sight of other critical needs such as public health, public safety and education.
“We have additional needs, but not necessarily additional resources,” he said, referring to new sources of revenues needed.
The governor is also expected to submit a proposed supplemental budget early in fiscal year 2014, to add to its remittance to the Fund. Under the tentatively approved settlement, the government needs to remit $25 million to the Fund, for example.