House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) said getting creative in generating revenues for the CNMI government were among the topics that they discussed when they met with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres last Monday. The administration is currently finishing up the government’s budget proposal that they plan to submit to the Legislature within the week.
The administration, based on the report given by acting Finance secretary David Atalig, is looking at a projected decrease of $12,048,321 in revenue collections for the first quarter of the current fiscal year. Super Typhoon Yutu hitting the islands of Saipan and Tinian last October is a major reason of the revenue shortfall as economic activity was stagnant for a few months.
“[The budget] is pretty much the gist of the meeting. To address those revenue-generating legislation. To take care of the issues on Medicaid, the hospital, and the massive damage of the Public School System and the Northern Marianas College from the typhoons. Currently, that’s where we are right now,” Attao told Saipan Tribune.
“We talked about the budget and their submission and the other issues that we’re facing. Like, how are we going to get creative in generating revenues. So, we could take care of the pressing needs, the heavy damages incurred during Yutu on Saipan and Tinian, and also taking into consideration what Mangkhut did to Rota.”
Attao said they need to figure out other revenue sources that would address the issues in the CNMI, like Medicaid, in order to spread out the budgetary allocations. The CNMI Medicaid Office, in a letter by Torres to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), has spent the $270,000 funds provided by the expanded Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
House Ways and Means Committee chair Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) added they also discussed several solutions that could generate additional revenues like having a fuel tax or pass the amendment bill of Public Law 20-66 or the Taulamwarr Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018.
“There were several solutions discussed on ways to raise money, especially for our share on Medicaid and uncompensated care. I don’t know where the fuel tax is going or if they want to include another funding language,” Blanco told Saipan Tribune.
“Another one is the Cannabis [amendment] bill to move along, because we’re going to miss the 180 days as stated in the statute. We first need to have a Commission and after 180 days, we need to have the regulations. The problem is, we don’t have yet a full working Commission that needs to be funded.”
Nadine Deleon Guerrero and Matt Deleon Guerrero (Saipan), Valentino Taisacan Jr. (Northern Islands), Lawrence Duponcheel (Tinian), and Thomas Songsong (Rota) are the members of the CNMI Cannabis Commission that were confirmed by their respective legislative delegations in the 20th Legislature.
Blanco added the 180 days has not yet kicked in since the commission, according to P.L. 20-66, needs to get organized first and come up with the regulations for the new industry in the CNMI. “Right now, we have the commission as appointed but it is not yet a working commission. Until we have the accompanying bill, so the 180 days has not kicked in.”
“The governor wants us to make a move on that [House Bill 21-13]. I understand that the bill was adopted out of the [House Cannabis] committee. Now, it is just a matter of the Speaker [Attao] setting a date for our session so we could discuss the bill on the floor that could be another possible revenue source for the CNMI.”