Teno thumbs down pleas for budget hike • Available cash will be realigned where it’s needed, according to governor
Some departments and agencies are unlikely to receive larger share of the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2000 due to the shrinking government revenues, but Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio has pledged to infuse additional funds once its cash collections improve.
“If we find additional money, we will allocate them. It is very difficult for us to accommodate everybody but we will definitely prioritize those who need it most,” he told reporters.
The statement came in the wake of mounting clamor from agencies for higher spending limit next year during a series of budget hearing being conducted by the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Department of Public Safety, the Superior Court, as well as some independent programs like the charitable group Karidat, have asked lawmakers for additional money, saying the proposed appropriations for each office is not sufficient to deliver basic services to the community.
While he is not definite whether there will be some surplus in the revenue estimate with which the government can operate effectively, Tenorio stressed his administration is ready to consider the requests as collections come in.
“We have submitted a revised budget which is short from the previous one. We will try to accommodate other departments as we go along,” the local chief executive said.
The Tenorio administration has raised slightly its proposed spending package to $206.98 million, boosted by $275,000 in anticipated revenues from a forthcoming plan to assess tipping fees on solid waste disposal on Saipan.
The increase has pushed the budget closer to the current level of $210 million which was lower by 13.4 percent from the initial package approved by the Legislature last year.
This excess money, however, will be earmarked for the governor’s solid waste program — one of his campaign pledges when he sought his third term in November 1997.
As part of efforts to deal with the anticipated budget shortfall of some department and agencies, the Ways and Means Committee has met with government officials to try to work out a solution.
Members have agreed to provide flexibility to DPS and the judicial branch in handling their cash resources to allow them juggle their own funds to meet critical services.
They, however, don’t foresee additional money on top of what has been allotted by the administration to these offices due to the continuous economic crisis besetting the Commonwealth.
The full Legislature, which has until September 30 to pass the budget, is expected to approve these temporary measures to deal with the cash-flow problems of the government.
Several programs have been suspended by the governor to meet the dwindling revenues, but Tenorio has told lawmakers that his administration would further pare down expenditures to cut the deficit and prevent budget shortfall by the end of the fiscal year.
The island has been heavily battered by the two-year economic recession in Asia, its main source of tourists and investors, plunging down revenues by as much as 20 percent, and CNMI officials fear collections will not improve in the near future.