Members of the Legislature’s bicameral conference committee resumed discussions yesterday to resolve their disagreements in the budget bill for fiscal year 2021 but, as of 6:30pm last night, no compromise was in sight just yet.
A source said the conferees are hoping to resolve issues and pass the budget at 8pm last night to avoid a partial government shutdown.
The Legislature has to pass the budget by the end of the fiscal year, which was yesterday, Sept. 30. If not, the CNMI government will have to shut down, except for essential services like the hospital and police.
After holding talks Tuesday until almost 11pm, members of the conference committee led by Senate vice president Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) agreed to meet again at 9:30am yesterday.
At 5pm, both the Senate and House called for an emergency session. The back-to-back sessions, however, did not push through and was set again for another one at 8pm last night because there was no “product” yet from the conference committee.
A source said the remaining issue as of 6pm was the proposed allocations for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
“The conference committee wants to give it another shot and hopefully have a product at 8pm,” the source said.
In the proposed Senate version, Blanco earlier pointed out, there was an increase $1.8 million for Tinian and $1.3 million for Rota. Saipan was increased too but, instead of a similar amount, the island received an increase of only $247,000.
In the House version that the House passed last Aug. 5, the representatives took the $82 million that the governor identified as the net total available for appropriation and they stayed within that figure.
Besides Hofschneider, the other members in the Senate team are Sens. Vinnie F. Sablan (R-Saipan) and Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota). Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian) is an alternate member.
The members in the House team are Blanco, floor leader Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan), and Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan). Rep. Joel C. Camacho (R-Saipan) is an alternate.
The conference committee was established after the House rejected the Senate’s version of the budget bill with an 18-2 vote during Sunday’s special session.
Last Saturday, the Senate passed its version in the budget bill that proposes $96.47 million in available revenue and resources for appropriation for FY 2021.
The Senate’s version is $13.81 million more than what the House had adopted in the amount of $82.65 million.