‘Austerity could extend to next fiscal year’

Posted on Jun 13 2019

The House of Representatives committee that is hammering out the details of the CNMI government’s next fiscal year budget wants to err on the side of caution and come out with a final product that’s conservative.

The House Ways and Means Committee has already started the budget process, summoning top officials to public hearings in order to go over the revenue pie.

Committee chair Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) said he wants to be on the conservative side when it comes to the CNMI government’s budget for the fiscal year2020.

Already, the CNMI budget for 2019 will be short of $29.9 million—a total reduction of 11.6 percent.

The administration’s original estimated revenues for fiscal year 2019 was at $258.14 million but, after dismal collections in the first two quarters of the year, the government’s revised budget is now at $141.50 million.

Blanco said the projections for the previous quarter were not expected and it’s not yet known what would happen in the final quarter of this fiscal year.

“We don’t know if we’re able to collect what we projected for the fourth quarter,” he said. “It is good to be optimistic but it is also good to be realistic. I would rather be on the conservative side.

“Are the numbers real? If they are not, then what steps can we continue to take? …Because of the new fiscal year, are we going to start hiring again? Are we going to be spending more money? I don’t think so. I think the cost-containment measures that we’re having this time [since FY 2019], we can carry it over to FY 2020.”

Blanco said he is also waiting for any report or update from his counterpart at the Senate, Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian). “There are no discussions yet with Sen. Hofschneider. I don’t know what their other concerns are.”

“But I’m pretty sure they are going to share with the Ways and Means what they have done. …It is good that [Hofschneider] questioned whether the projections for fiscal year 2020 are realistic.”

Blanco added the line of credit that the administration has asked the Marianas Public Land Trust will be a big help. “We encouraged them [MPLT board] to fully review what the requirements are, and also to consider the needs of government. The bulk of [retirees] are [of Northern Marianas descent] and they will be the recipient of it.”

“We understand that the MPLT money, when it is disbursed, is not for operation; so the attorney general and MPLT’s legal counsel are looking [whether] the Settlement Fund and bonds would fall into operations. We don’t know what their conclusions would be, but I think that is the issue that they are working on.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.
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