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Monday, April 21, 2014

Inos: No work hour cuts in 2014

Two days before he was to leave for Hawaii to meet with U.S. Pacific Command officials, Gov. Eloy S. Inos said he does not foresee work hour cuts for fiscal year 2014. However, he continues to urge belt-tightening and ways to generate additional revenues to come up with at least $12 million more to meet new or expanded government obligations on top of the $123.4 million already previously budgeted.

“I don’t think we can expect any work hour cuts for the rest of the year,” he said in an interview at the investiture of CNMI Superior Court associate judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio on Friday.

Government employees have expressed concern that they would again be subjected to up to 16-hour work cut per pay period. But Inos said this won’t be the case—at least for the year.

The administration is now finalizing the revenue and spending on the first quarter of 2014 covering October to December 2013. Inos said based on preliminary figures, “we’re tracking.”

“I haven’t seen any negative signals. We’re still meeting payroll. We’re making the payments to the settlement fund. So we’re doing a little better than just okay, with tourism numbers still going up. I hope that it continues, I think it will continue to follow the trend,” the governor said.

With $123.4 million budget for fiscal year 2014, this means the government expects an average of $30 million spending every quarter.

As in previous years and quarters, government utility and medical referral spending exceeds appropriations. The governor said there may be shortfall again in these areas.

Moreover, the governor said he is now putting together a supplemental budget request to the Legislature. This covers the minimum $12 million needed to address government health and life insurance plus the Retirement Settlement Fund obligations.

“We’re making a lot of progress. Good progress,” he said.

This mostly comes from an increase in gross receipts taxes, tied to a steadily climbing tourist arrival.

Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson, meanwhile, said they have yet to finalize the report on the latest tax amnesty program, including the total back taxes settled and the number of those who came forward to avail of the program.

The governor said the tax amnesty program, especially when another one is offered, will help generate additional revenues for the year.

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