But there’s more to this than what some lawmakers tried to explain yesterday as the Legislature has been crafting its budget bill in such a way that actual total “personnel” spending is almost split between “personnel” and “operations,” so when it’s reporting time, the Legislature would almost always have overspending in personnel.
Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos said the governor’s report on a deficit or variance of $931,101 in the Legislature’s personnel spending is accurate.
For fiscal year 2011, the Legislature’s personnel allotment was only for over $2.5 million, but actually spent over $3.4 million. This was in the governor’s report. Fitial revised the 2011 budget from $132 million to $122 million because of declining revenues.
Inos said what the Legislature did when it crafted the fiscal year 2011 budget was to identify a total of 145 fulltime employees for both the House and Senate, but budgeted these under the “operations,” not under “personnel.”
The only entities budgeted under “personnel” are the 29 lawmakers whose salaries are constitutionally protected, along with the Legislative Bureau and the CNMI Youth Congress.
The budget for the other 145 FTEs-100 from the House and 45 from the Senate-are in “operations.”
“They have over 100 FTEs, meaning they plan to hire these people but put the spending under operations. That’s because they don’t want to inflate their personnel spending. So where are the people getting paid? From the operations,” one administration official said.
Inos, meanwhile, said “the correct procedure will be to reprogram ‘all others’ into personnel.”
“That’s the way to resolve the appearance of that report.the previous years were just like that,” Inos told reporters. He said the administration has been pointing this out to the Legislature.
Because of questions on the Legislature’s budget and spending, some lawmakers questioned yesterday why the Legislative Bureau continues to have an 80-hour work biweekly while many other government employees are subjected to 64 hours.
House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) told reporters to leave his conference room after calling them in, purportedly to explain the Legislature’s fiscal year 2011 spending.
It was only yesterday that the House called for a leadership meeting, days after receiving the governor’s financial report on Dec. 31. Moreover, most House members have yet to fully review the financial report as of yesterday.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), meanwhile, said he’s confident that the Legislature didn’t overrun on personnel costs. He said even if the Legislature wants to spend the amount it wants, it cannot do so unless the Department of Finance approves and cuts the check.
Manglona said they would seek clarification from the administration.
“Of course when something like this, almost $1 million overrun showing in the report, it’s very alarming. In times when we have to cut budget across the board, and the departments are really running at skeletal level, we need to be concerned, I guess we need to know why the numbers are coming out this way but again I’m confident we didn’t overrun,” he said.
In the end, he said it could only be a matter of sitting down together and understanding why the financial report came out the way it did.
The governor said there was a total of $4.176 million in excess spending just for personnel in fiscal year 2011. This contributed to a total deficit of $25.8 million-a combination of over $25.2 million in overspending and over half a million in revenue shortfall.