Hocog: With MPLT loan, Senate shutdown unlikely

‘FY 2020 might start without austerity’

Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) noted that the feared Senate shutdown now appears unlikely, with the Legislature authorizing the central government to obtain a $15-million loan from the Marianas Public Land Trust fund.

In an interview with Saipan Tribune, Hocog noted that Senate shutdown is unlikely but it will be up to the MPLT loan recently authorized by the Legislature when the Senate voted 7-1 to pass House Speaker Blas Jonathan “BJ” Attao’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 21-44 HD1, HS1.

“We might not move forward with the closure of the Senate,” Hocog said in an interview.

In May, Hocog told the Executive Branch that the Senate would be closed from August through September due to the reduced allotments, to ensure that the remaining funds would last the Senate until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2019.

Hocog said that shutting down the Senate is now a last-ditch effort for the Legislature with the expected enactment of the MPLT loan, coupled with a reported increase in tax collection numbers.

Finance Secretary David Atalig told Saipan Tribune in a previous interview that the department is expecting to collect $50 million in the fourth quarter, or roughly $17 million monthly for the last three months of the fiscal year 2019 ending on Sept. 30, 2019.

“We are projecting to collect at least $3 million per month or an additional $9 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019,” he said, referring to the projected excise tax collections for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Compared to fiscal year 2018 within the same period, Atalig emphasized that there was a $5-million increase in excise taxes from last year’s collections.

“From October 2018 to June 2019, [the Division of Customs] collected about $35 million in excise tax. For the same period last year…Customs collected close to $30 million—an increase of over $5 million. In fiscal year 2018, we collected over $40.1 million whereas we anticipate to collect $44 million this fiscal year,” he added.

Hocog praised “the hard work of the secretary of Finance for his aggressive collections that enabled us to stay afloat.

Hocog told Saipan Tribune, “I am very positive that the fiscal year 2020 would not start with austerity measures.”

This is why, he said, he is pushing for the passage of the CNMI appropriation bill, “because [by doing that], we provide more for other government employees.”

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.
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