ON BUDGET IMPASSE Teno keeps hands off as Senate attempts new talks with House

Posted on Jan 04 2001

Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio refused anew to step into the budget imbroglio in the Legislature as the Senate reached out to the House for possible resumption of talks on the FY 2001 spending measure which the latter called off last week.

In an interview with reporters, the local chief executive said he has submitted his budget proposal to the lawmakers and it’s up to them now how to divide the pie.

“That’s their property now,” Mr. Tenorio said, without elaborating as he declined to respond to follow-up questions.

In hopes to revive the budget talks, Senate President Paul A. Manglona met with House Speaker Benigno R. Fitial early yesterday to discuss the possibility of convening the leadership of both chambers in order to reach a compromise.

“We are working on our differences,” Mr. Manglona told reporters after the brief meeting, adding the Senate will also look into the House proposal providing wider reprogramming authority to the governor to manage the cash resources.

The lower house is contemplating on adopting such resolution instead of approving the $221.66 million budget package following its rejection of Senate changes to the measure.

Last week, senators asked Mr. Tenorio not to exercise his reprogramming authority to shift funds to pay lobbyists in Washington D.C.

About $700,000 have been set aside by the House for that purpose under its version of the budget bill, but since there is no agreement produced by lawmakers, the Senate maintained the governor should not use his spending power to allocate the funds.

Sen. Edward U. Maratita, chair of the Fiscal Affairs Committee, reiterated the position of the leadership, noting the government should not even pony up $200,000 to take care of the shortfall if local business groups step up to the plate with half-a-million dollars.

“If it’s coming from the private sector, I have no problem with that. In the first place, they should be funding that lobbyists because that’s for their best interests,” he told reporters in separate interview.

Mr. Maratita, however, is firm in his plan to earmark $2 million to pay government employees awaiting their so-called retroactive salary.

“I will compromise on anything the House wants, but I will not compromise on the retroactive pay,” he said.

Aside from the lobbyists’ funding and the retroactive salary compensation, both houses disagreed on the $16 million funding level for each of the Rota and Tinian municipalities as well as the earmarking of $1 million from the MVA budget to create new offices on each of the island during the bicameral conference held last month.

The government is operating under a continuing resolution based on the funding level of the FY 1998 budget — the last one approved by lawmakers — of $242 million to appropriate the revenues this year to all the departments and agencies.

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