Fight over funding erupts in House

Posted on Nov 28 2000

A bill appropriating $2.42 million for the completion of the Koblerville homestead expansion project sparked debate yesterday in the House of Representatives over which precinct gets most of the taxpayers’ money for infrastructure projects.

Rep. Dino M. Jones, who represents Precinct 4 on Saipan, lambasted what he claimed as failure by the government to give priority to projects in his area which are badly-needed by residents.

His precinct covers areas north of Saipan, including Tanapag and Capitol Hill. He offered resolution during yesterday’s session asking the governor to include these villages under a comprehensive drainage plan for Saipan.

He said that while he does not disapprove funds earmarked for other precincts, he always has to seek other resources to push projects for his district.

“Why do I have to go to [Marianas Public Land Trust] to ask for money while other precincts are using taxpayers’ money?” he asked his colleagues during the session.

Mr. Jones expressed outrage that it has been difficult for him to fight for bigger share of the funding for his precinct in the Legislature, lamenting that “not much action has been taken by this body to accommodate us.”

The statement came amid debate on HB 12-289 which will earmark $2.42 million to the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation to undertake infrastructure development at the Koblerville homestead.

About 45 new housing units are soon to be completed, but lawmakers worry that these can’t be sold at market prices due to lack of necessary infrastructure like sewer.

The funds will come from the interest earned by the Commonwealth Development Authority from its bond proceeds deposited at the Bank of Guam.

Offered by Precinct 1 Rep. Martin B. Ada, five other representatives from the area have backed the proposal, including Rep. David M. Apatang who warned other members against attempt to shift some of the money for other projects in Precinct 3.

Rep. Heinz S. Hofschneider tried to divert $420,000 from the Koblerville project for Chalan Kiya and Gualo Rai sewer distribution, prompting other legislators to raise hell on the proposal.

He said he is willing to drop his amendment, which is being backed by Precinct 3 representatives, to the bill if the House will ensure that this funding will be set aside in the future.

HB 12-289 eventually was approved by the lower house after a lunch break, with the amendment modified to prevent cutting the amount from the $2.42 million appropriation.

The Precinct 3 project will have to settle for forthcoming funds that will be appropriated by the House once these are made available. The bill now heads to the Senate for action. (BS)

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