With a little over 60 days left on its mandated deadline, the $148-million budget bill for fiscal year 2018 is beginning to take shape.
The House Ways and Means Committee adopted the budget yesterday after tedious deliberations at the committee level over the week.
According to committee chair Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), the fiscal year 2018 budget draft has yet to be released to the public but the bill could be expected today.
According to Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), the bill’s author and House legal counsel have yet to sign the draft bill as of 2pm yesterday.
After the budget bill is introduced on the floor this Friday, the House still has to wait 72 hours before they could act on it, due to the requirement of the Open Government Act that all bills for consideration must be announced to the public beforehand.
Following House action, the fiscal year 2018 budget bill would be reviewed by the Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee, led by Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) before being acted on by the entire Senate.
In a perfect world, the House and the Senate would see eye-to-eye on budget appropriations; however, that is rarely the case. The House and the Senate rarely agree on priorities, resulting in a constant tug of war on where the money would go.
If the Senate does not have any problems with the budget bill in its current form, the bill goes to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for review. If the Senate makes any changes or tweaks to the bill, it goes back to the House, for House adoption. If the House makes any changes, it goes back to the Senate for adoption.
If they cannot agree on a version, the Legislature may create a bicameral committee composed of both House and Senate lawmakers to iron out a final version.
Once both Senate and House members reach an agreement on the budget, the budget goes to Torres, who is constitutionally allowed a 20-day grace period for review. If Torres is satisfied with the budget, he may sign the budget into law. However, if he is dissatisfied with certain provisions, he may omit them before signing the budget into law. If Torres is dissatisfied with the budget altogether, he may veto the whole bill as a whole, which then restarts the budget process at the House committee level.
If no budget is signed into law by the end of fiscal year 2017, which is this Sept. 30, 2017, there will be a government shutdown, with nonessential government employees not receiving pay until a budget is passed into law.