The House has unanimously passed legislation that would create a new funding source for the CNMI Museum.
The House passed vice speaker Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 21-52 during their session on Capitol Hill last Tuesday.
The bill was passed without changes. It allocates 20% of beverage container taxes to the CNMI Museum as a regular annual funding source.
Twenty percent of the beverage container tax is estimated at $186,027 in fiscal year 2020, which is intended to make up for the massive drop in the CNMI Museum’s budget for fiscal year 2020.
The museum was appropriated $462,984 in fiscal year 2019. It will only get $214,207 in fiscal year 2020.
“The museum continues to suffer from insufficient funds to make improvements and maintain its operations,” the legislation states.
CNMI Museum director Danny Aquino, who has expressed support for the legislation, said, “One of the biggest problems…in the museum is funding [but] it’s not [just] about the funding. It’s about what we want to do with the investment given to the museum.”
He noted that the museum has been able to procure extremely valuable artifacts but then no money was left to afford security.
“We have invested over $1 million in our collections, and yet if we look at the kind investments we give to the museum and the kind of [artifact] that go there, I think we can do better,” he said, adding that he is appreciative of the support the museum has gotten from the Legislature in the past two years.
“This bill helps us with other costs. There are signs of spalling in the museum again,” he said.
Spalling occurs when the rebar situated inside concrete structures for added rigidity and reinforcement expands due to corrosion, causing cracks.
“This is something that cannot be helped because the building is 92 years old. It was never meant to be a [permanent] museum; it was only meant to be a temporary museum,” he said.
The legislation now heads to the Senate for review and action.