House leadership sets the record straight

Posted on Sep 15 2022


Compared to what Gov. Ralph DLG Torres proposed in his FY 2023 budget submission, the leadership of the CNMI House of Representatives increased the level of funding to critical healthcare, community and cultural affairs, and public safety departments and agencies.

The simple truth is that the governor is completely wrong.

“Take a look at the numbers that the governor proposed and compare them to what the Legislature appropriated. A simple comparison shows that the governor actually zero-funded operations for several key departments. This forces expenditure authorities to request ARPA money from the secretary of Finance on a case-by-case basis. This is not how we should be budgeting our departments and running the government. We in the Legislature used local funds and the funds that the governor tried to use for Medicaid reimbursement to give these critical entities as much funding as possible,” said Ways and Means chair Rep. Donald Manglona (D-Saipan).

“If there was any shortage in what the Legislature passed, it was still a substantial improvement over what the governor proposed. The numbers don’t lie,” said Rep. Joel Camacho (D-Saipan).

“The governor makes several material misstatements that indicate that he either misread the budget bill or he is simply lying. Either way, he is wrong and his comments are utterly irresponsible and obviously driven by politics as opposed to fiscal analysis. For example, the governor claims that the Legislature decreased what was appropriated to the Carolinian Affairs Office by $94,000. Nonsense,” said Rep. Denita Yangetmai (D-Saipan). “The House bill appropriated $5,373 more to the Carolinian Affairs Office than the governor’s proposal,” the Refaluwasch lawmaker said.

The governor also claims that the House leadership reduced the Indigenous Affairs budget by $89,000. “This is untrue. This office had their budget reduced by $3,494 but this reduction reflects the removal of an unfilled vacancy. We increased their operations budget.

“The governor fails to mention that his proposal for the Indigenous Affairs budget slashed their budget from $310,001 to just $151,367,” said Yangetmai.

The governor claims that the House leadership allocated $165,000 less to the Veterans Affairs Office. This is false. The governor proposed $286,838. The House bill actually appropriated $297,508. “There was no decrease. Period. In fact, we appropriated $10,670 more than what governor Torres allotted to this important office,” said retired Army veteran Rep. Richard Lizama (D-Saipan).

The governor claims that the Legislature cut the CNMI Scholarship Office by $151,000.

However, this is false. The House increased funding to the scholarship office by a small amount.

While Torres claims that the House leadership took $79,000 from the Women’s Affair Office, in reality, the House increased their funding by $5,326. “Not only was there was no reduction whatsoever, we managed to increase their funding over what Torres proposed,” said Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan).

“The governor is misinforming the people. If he is intentionally lying then that is unforgivable . On the other hand, if he is being honest and unintentionally sharing false information, then his incompetence is inexcusable,” said Ways and Means vice chair Rep. Corina Magofna (D-Saipan).

The governor states that he is deeply disappointed with the House majority’s decision to cut resources from essential governmental agencies and departments in favor of giving themselves an additional $1.2 million in allocations. “There was no increase over our current budget in FY 2022,” said Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan). “Unlike the Executive Branch, the Legislature and the Judiciary do not have any access to ARPA funds. What the Legislature appropriated for FY 2023 did not even match the current FY 2022 budget level. In truth we actually cut our budget compared to the current year, so the governor again totally misconstrues what we did,” said Babauta. (PR)

With respect to CHCC, the Governor claims that the House reduced its budget by $973,000.

However, the House actually created two separate funding sources in the form of a Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax and a Tobacco tax which are projected to provide over $3 million in additional revenue that will be allocated specially to CHCC. 

“By increasing these taxes for just one year, we hope to raise revenue by taxing these optional items. We cannot legislate a healthy lifestyle but we can tax cigarettes and soft drinks—things that are not essential,” said Staffler.

“The governor fails to mention that he zero-funded the Retirees’ Pension Fund in FY 2023. His proposal provided absolutely nothing to the retirees in the FY 2023 budget. In contrast, the House found the money for our retirees. Aside from not identifying funds for the retirees, he also failed to provide funds for most of the CNMI Government’s operations, including critical funding to first responders and other health and safety related agencies,”  said vice speaker Rep. BJ Attao (R-Saipan).

“Instead of hiring an army of lawyers and giving huge raises to his cabinet, the governor should be cutting expenses and trying to be more fiscally responsible. He is over-spending like there is

no tomorrow and we know that ARPA will not last forever. That fiscal cliff is coming,” said Rep. Vicente Camacho (D-Saipaan).

Lastly, the FY 2023 appropriations bill was passed by both sides of the House via a unanimous vote of both the House minority and majority. “The budget bill may have been a product of the Ways and Means Committee, but we have to acknowledge the Minority leadership who also voted yes—those who voted, all supported the bill. This was not political,” said Rep. Ed Propst (D-Saipan). (PR)

Press Release
News under Press Release are official statements issued to Saipan Tribune giving information on a particular matter.

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