Epitaph of CNMI democracy


One of the greatest presidents in modern times once said “ask not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country.” This proved to be a prophetic statement and it still rings so true today. We have developed a political system where no longer to candidates offer us real solutions as their platforms are just ink on paper and they hardly ever mention it during election time because they are entirely too busy putting down their opposition. Our politicians have lost the true “art of politicking” and it has boiled down to a “popularity contest” for the lack of a better example. The mindset of our politicians is “what can I do or say to get elected” not what can I do for my community, which is why we have so many Republicans and virtually no Democrats. But the true question they should all be asking is what can I do or say that will prove I can help the people and our Commonwealth?

The people of the CNMI need to be getting prepared to ask the hard questions at the governor’s public outreach explanation given the vast majority of us are bewildered about our situation that nobody, especially the governor, seems to have seen coming. I’m sure most readers know this outreach is pretty much a “white-wash job” because I don’t believe they can explain their way out of this mess for the governor. And speaking of the governor, you will notice he will not be there to answer the questions that people want to hear the answers from him that is if questions are even allowed.

One day everything is fine and the next day we are suddenly $27 million short and its austerity with no warning or planning that should have been implemented the day after Yutu as you don’t have to be an economist to know that our tourism was going to take a hit. 1. So why weren’t the people informed of this economic hit immediately after Yutu instead of seven months later? I don’t have to tell any business person or student of finance or economics that there is something very wrong with that picture given our budget and expenditures are based on “projections” – meaning someone had to know a month or two after Yutu that the projected income for the government would be facing hard times but we were told prosperity. 2. Why weren’t the projected income decrease made known the months BEFORE The election? 3.What was the government’s collection the months before Yutu and what was the government’s collections the months after Yutu as there has to have been a constant decline and not a rapid one that fell on our heads suddenly? 4. So, why did the governor wait for seven months after Yutu to start talking austerity? 5.Why did the governor make a State of the Commonwealth Address touting prosperity to get elected but never mentioned austerity might lay ahead within months—five months to be exact? 6. How much did the $200 million form the feds help the government given the governor’s Cabinet got paid “overtime against the law” before the first responders? 7. What is the governor going to do about the BOE members getting a six-figure salary raise that is totally absurd given the BOE is a part-time job that pays them more than the Legislature?

I hope someone or at least one of the independents who have been vocal on this will ask these hard questions that have been prepared by the teacher on this Thursday’s outreach presentation as the answers will surely reveal the governor “knowing” held back on the austerity issue until after the election. Like my mother told me that “telling a half-truth is really telling a whole lie” and that is what the governor did to his people to get elected! But will voters even remember in three years and hold him accountable is the bigger question that we won’t know the answer to until the election. Two other questions that will be answered in the next election is what new people will run for the BOE posts that will be up for renewal as we need to get rid of everyone on the present board for what they have done in giving themselves ridiculous raises and for what they are trying to do to teaches and for failing to do anything to prevent teachers from taking the austerity hit such as “promising teachers back-pay” to make up for the cut which would put the earnest on the governor and the government, not teachers. But bullies don’t think like that they just kowtow to the people with real power (the governor) and take care of themselves with a raise.

What are the hard questions the NMD group is going to ask the director of Carolinian Affairs given they have or had a meeting? But what I found to be even more important questions that need answering by the governor, not his emissaries, are the ones raised by Senator Manglona and kudos to the senator for asking some of the hardquestions that demand answers.

Senator Manglona said: According to your Dec. 31, 2018 letter to the presiding officers of the Legislature, our fiscal challenges actually began about a year ago. So I ask the question, why didn’t the governor tell the people this important fact given its importance in his State of the Commonwealth Address?

What is the reason for the drastic decrease in CBGRT? In FY 2016, Imperial Pacific International paid approximately $41 million; in FY 2017, $68 million; in FY 2018, $44 million; and in 2019, IPI paid a mere $41,000 since last July which proves the governor knew there was going to be a short-all coming but he didn’t say a word.

What is the impact of Public Law 20-85 on the government’s collection of FY 2019 CBGRT? Did this new law allow IPI to write-off significant loans given to high rollers as bad debts, in full or in part, from casino gross income when figuring its taxable income, thus resulting in tens of millions in CBGRT losses this fiscal year? Is there anything that the Legislature can amend in this new law to have an accountable application pertaining to casino bad debts, such as requiring collateral as security for these loans to be qualified?

I will answer this one, as the Legislature can make a law requiring that all lines of credit must pay the tax on the money credited first before being executed” and if the complete line of credit is not used then a refund should be issued on what is due. Stop the need to collect CNMI taxes on credit lines as we (the CNMI) are already owed more than our yearly budget. The CNMI should have a say in the line of credit given our vested interest with taxes being paid. But the senator went on to raise other important questions about the casino like “how is the exclusive casino annual license fee of $15 million being manipulated and where are the mandatory casino reports on the construction progress that the public has never heard anything about.” Heck I would like to know and I’m sure NMDs would like to know why is the governor trying to manipulate MPLT for $15 million with a plan that is actually deficit spending which violates CNMI law?

Why is the governor leaving out unavoidable costs from the budget including government utilities, medical referral services, Medicaid matching requirements, CHCC indigent care costs, and PSS’ 25 percent? These are cost that should be included in the governor’s budget but no one in the Legislature caught it they really didn’t see it because they rubberstamped the budget. This is a clear example of why we need two parties in our Legislature to apply real checks and balances to the outcomes of our government. There are many other questions that our governor needs to answer but the message should be clear that we need to fix our democracy to prevent future car wrecks of us being “blindsided” with austerity when it could have been avoided to a very high degree.

Ambrose M. Bennett

Ambrose M. Bennett

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