Down to the wire on budget


Faced with a Sept. 30 deadline to enact a budget for fiscal year 2021, the CNMI Senate may hold a special session tomorrow, Saturday, to pass its version of the budget and avoid a partial government shutdown.

A source said this developed as members of the Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee failed to compromise yesterday and will continue their discussions this morning, Friday.

Saturday’s planned special session, which will be at 1:30pm, will be held just to pass the version by the whole Senate.

Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) said Wednesday that if the bill is satisfactory to the committee, then they are going to adopt it at the Senate session.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives adopted the Senate’s version of the House concurrent resolution that proposes $96.47 million in available revenue and resources for appropriation for government activities in fiscal year 2021.

The Senate’s version is $13.81 million more from what the House had originally adopted in the concurrent resolution that proposes $82.65 million for appropriation.

The Senate must pass its own fiscal year 2021 budget version and transmit it to the House for its acceptance or rejection. If the House passes it on Monday, that leaves the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres little more than two days to review the budget bill for enactment.

The CNMI government must enact a new and balanced budget before Oct. 1 to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The CNMI government used to be allowed to go into continuing resolution if no budget is enacted on time. That means the CNMI government would automatically operate using the previous budget law. However, after successive continuing resolutions in the mid-2000s, the Legislature amended the law such that failure to enact a budget bill would result in a government shutdown. That was supposedly intended to pressure lawmakers and the Executive Branch to enact a budget bill on time each year.

Last July 1, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres submitted a revised revenue projection in the amount of $144.41 million. Of this amount, the governor approved $82.65 million for government appropriation.

Last July 29, the House adopted House Concurrent Resolution 21-2 authored by House Ways and Means chair Rep. Ivan Blanco (R-Saipan). The resolution basically concurs with Torres’ revised budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 in the amount of $82.65 million.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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