House overrides Hofschneider’s veto of appropriation bill


Blas Jonathan T. Attao, Jude Hofschneider, and Leila Staffler

The House of Representatives united yesterday to override then-acting governor Jude U. Hofschneider’s (R-Tinian) veto of a local bill that would appropriate a total of $430,000 in unobligated funds collected from the casino license fee paid by Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC.

House Local Bill 22-31, authored by Rep. Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan), would appropriate $350,000 to the Saipan Mayor’s Office for his operations, and $80,000 to the Kagman Watershed Project.

At yesterday’s House session, all 17 House members present voted “yes” to the override. Rep. Patrick H. San Nicolas (R-Tinian) abstained. Two representatives were absent.

Of particular interest to Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan) was the part where Hofschneider vetoed the $80,000 for the ongoing Kagman Watershed Project. Staffler said the reasoning that Hofschneider gave for vetoing the bill were the “assurances provided by correlating departments and agencies that this project will be prioritized and provided with adequate and related federal funding assistance within the coming months.”
She said they met with the funding and the federal partners who have been part of this very long project since 2001 or 2003.

“The money that this would have been appropriated…would be used to help maintain the project site because, since pandemic it has been overgrown, and the many beautiful birds and animals that we love are also taking over in the spaces, which will make it harder to complete the project in the future,” Staffler said.
She said this $80,000 is critical to maintaining the site so the project can be finally finished.

Staffler said that, although this watershed project is named the Kagman Watershed Project, this is actually a project that will help many people in the entire Saipan community—fisherman and farmers alike.
“This project is something that was created as a pilot that would be the model for the Pacific in managing watersheds and collaborating with farming resources as well,” she said.

Staffler said she disagrees with Hofschneifer’s veto of the bill and hope that they can do something about it as a body.

In echoing the sentiments of those who have spoken about the veto, Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) said she would offer a motion to override.

Vice speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan) said that, with the Kagman Watershed Project, those monies were appropriated by the delegation because it’s the responsibility of the local level to pay the matching fund.
“We cannot use other federal grants to pay for the percentage of the local level matching. Therefore the $80,000 that was appropriated to the watershed program was the guaranteed percentage that we were obligated at this period of time,” Attao said.

As a matter of fact, Attao said, the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation needs to find additional funding sources because they need to pay that to the tune of almost $17 million.

“I think we’ve paid off already about $4 million. So that leaves us with approximately $13 million left to pay for that watershed program project that the feds are actually taking the lead on,” he said.

In vetoing the bill, Hofschneider reiterated Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ recommendation and strongly advised SNILD that the $350,000 be appropriated instead to support the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance office so that the CNMI may continue to invest in the future of its students.

But Attao said the administration is very much aware that these monies that were collected back in 2020 were monies that were already taken out for SHEFA.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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