Senate OKs HR 21-1 with amendments
The Senate passed House Concurrent Resolution 21-1, Senate Draft 1 yesterday with amendments that slightly increased the total budgetary resources for appropriation to benefit the Commonwealth’s educational sector. The total local revenue and resources available for appropriation went up by over $1.7 million, from $147.1 million to $148.8 million.
The Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Saipan), learned of the increase after meeting with Finance Secretary David Atalig and Office of Management and Budget special assistant Virginia Villagomez.
“Based on the governor’s request on the resources to move around, we identified a couple of earmarks that were intended to be suspended to be used for general appropriation,” Hofschneider said after yesterday’s session on Capital Hill. “That explains why there is an increase of approximately $1.7 million in the budget available for appropriation.”
House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) said the amendments would somehow ease the financial burden for the Public School System. “The amendments incorporated by members of the Senate and passed is a restatement of the administration’s budget proposal.”
“The identified balance will go to our educational systems such as PSS and [the Northern Marianas College]. It’s not much, but the proposal, in my initial discussions with House members, has the support of both the House majority leadership and the minority,” Blanco said.
P.L. 20-59 is an act that reserved the license revenues, where the funds are derived from the annual fees from the amusement machines within the Commonwealth.
Hofschneider said the amendment heeds the recommendations of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. “Some of the provisions, projected funds, and earmarks are embedded into the budget package. As a result of that exercise, the total revenue for appropriation increased from $147,135,215 to $148,891,002,” he said.
Stricken out were the Cigarette Excise Tax to Tobacco Control or P.L. 13-38 amounting to $3.5 million and the 3-percent Excise Tax transfer to Cancer Fund P.L. 13-42 as amended by P.L. 18-64, which amounts to $1.4 million.
Hofschneider said there was no intention of suspending 4 CMC § 1508 of P.L. 20-59 based on their meetings with Atalig and Villagomez. “So, therefore, it was included in the message. We have to take heed that it is not meant to be. Therefore, we have to memorialize it and look at the projected revenue that is expected for fiscal year 2020.”
“That is what we understood during meetings with the administration and Finance. That it was not intended. That is why we have to reinstate it into the earmarks. However, the other two earmarks, it was intended to be suspended. We therefore need to remove from the earmarks and embedded it down to the total of appropriation.”