The Torres administration insisted yesterday that the Office of Management and Budget makes sure that the cuts on the monthly allotments of all government agencies are proportionate and across the board.
That means what Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) said about the Legislature as the only one being targeted for cuts is “unfair and simply untrue.”
“In fact, the Executive Branch started implementing austerity measures before the Legislative and Judicial branches,” said an administration statement.
It pointed out that the Legislature received 100 percent of its allotment in April, while several departments and agencies are still waiting for theirs—a fact that Propst “failed to acknowledge.”
Right now, as a result of a decline in revenue collections in the first and second quarters, this has resulted in a proportionate reduction of 15.3 percent, the statement added. A 15.3-percent reduction was then applied across all government instrumentalities.
“To put it frankly, we are all facing the same cuts, but this administration is being proactive in responding to these conditions and providing revenue generating ideas with the Legislature’s leadership to assist all departments and agencies [including autonomous ones] as our economy steadily recovers,” the statement added.
The administration also said the $25.9 million deficit incurred at the close of the 2018 fiscal year was in part due to medical referrals.
“Twenty million dollars was attributed to the often-variable cost of off-island medical referral, while $1 million is attributed to overtime costs for law enforcement.”
The remaining $5 million was from loss of revenues in the remaining months of the fiscal year because of changing tourism numbers at the start of the tourism season. Typhoon Mangkhut devastated the island of Rota in September.
The administration also clarified the issue on travel after Gov. Ralph DLG Torres restricted all non-federal travel outside the Commonwealth. The Finance Department keeps a record of all the travel expenses for all executive departments and agencies.
“Federal travel has been allowed, subject to the availability and advancement of funds from our federal partners. Gov. Torres and several key administration staff have only been on three official trips on behalf of the Commonwealth,” said the statement, which added that Torres only went on three official trips. The first was to Washington, D.C. in February to attend the National Governors’ Association meeting, testify at the U.S. Congress in separate committee hearings by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), meeting with officials of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and leading the CNMI panel in the 902 consultations with the federal government.
Torres’ second trip was to Guam for the ongoing dialogue with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s administration and the Guam Legislature.
He also traveled to Palau where he was elected chairman of the Pacific Islands Development Bank.
The statement added Propst, who is the minority leader in the CNMI House of Representatives, can label these trips as junkets, but it said these were necessary for the CNMI “and not only to represent the CNMI in the national and regional stages.”
“Also, to ensure collaboration and assistance in our recovery, our economic policies, and our standing as a U.S. territory that has seen progress over the last few years, but was devastated by a typhoon that we had no control over.”