Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) wants to suspend CNMI lawmakers’ expenditure authority if they fail to pass a new budget by Aug. 30 of each year.
Taimanao said the CNMI Planning and Budgeting Act requires the Legislature to complete the annual budgeting process on or before Sept. 1 of each year but this provision has not been enforced in the past “because there is no penalty provision” for failure to comply with such provision.
In her Senate Bill 18-37, Taimanao proposes to end each lawmaker’s expenditure authority until such time as a new budget bill is passed by the Legislature.
“The purpose of this legislation is to provide a penalty provision if the Legislature fails to complete the annual appropriation act on or before Aug. 30 each year,” she said.
Taimanao said this will give the governor 20 days to review the annual appropriation act.
Her bill also changes the Sept. 1 timeline to Aug. 30 for the Legislature’s passage of a budget bill.
The CNMI government shut down for almost two weeks in 2010 when the House and Senate were deadlocked on a fiscal year 2010 budget bill.
Since then, the CNMI has dodged a shutdown. From 2011 to 2012, the Legislature passed a budget bill close to the deadline, giving the governor only a few days to review the spending measure.
It was only this year that the Legislature was able to pass a budget bill by Sept. 11, well ahead of the Oct. 1 start of fiscal year 2014.
This comes even as the U.S. government has shut down for the first time in 17 years after Congress failed to reach a deal over a healthcare program and federal program funding.