Today marks the third day of a partial government shutdown on Tinian, where Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz ordered over a dozen municipal employees to stop working until Tinian lawmakers pass a proposed $3.841-million municipal budget for fiscal year 2014 that began Oct. 1.
“I had to let go of the mayor’s staff because the delegation failed to pass a local budget on time. There are exemptions from this partial shutdown,” Dela Cruz told Saipan Tribune.
Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian), in a separate interview yesterday, said the Tinian and Aguiguan Legislative Delegation is poised to pass in this morning’s session the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.
“The delegation was caught up in addressing the CNMI government budget and the Retirement Fund settlement agreement and time just caught up with us. We have been working on the local budget for weeks now, and we expect it to pass [today],” he said.
The four-member Tinian delegation, chaired by Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian), convenes at 9:30am today.
If and when the Tinian municipal budget passes the delegation today, it still has to undergo review by the administration before Gov. Eloy S. Inos could sign it into local law.
This is already proving to be a worse partial shutdown on Tinian compared to last year, when municipal employees were ordered not to work for one day.
The municipal budget is from projected revenues from Tinian’s casino industry, which is essentially revenue from the lone operator, Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino.
The 2014 proposed budget of $3.841 million is a bit higher than the $3.5-million local Tinian budget law in 2013.
Most government personnel on Tinian are funded by CNMI general fund.
Among those exempted from this year’s partial Tinian shutdown are personnel from the Municipal Treasury and the Tinian Gaming Control Commission, Dela Cruz said.
“That’s why the number of affected personnel is down to only about 15. In my view, to treat everyone fairly, Casino Commission personnel that are not casino inspectors or the executive director should not be exempted from the shutdown,” he added.
Most of the affected employees are the least-paid municipal personnel on Tinian, receiving only $16,000 or a little more a year, municipal data shows.
“These people are already struggling. I hope that the local budget will be passed immediately so they could go back to work. They have families to feed and bills to pay too, just like the rest of government employees,” the mayor added.
This comes at a time when the U.S. government has also been shut down for the first time in 17 years over a lack of a new spending measure to keep federal government offices open on Oct. 1 and onwards.