The House of Representatives has concurred with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ budget proposal of $258.1 million for fiscal year 2019, effectively jumpstarting the budget process.
In an interview with House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), he said the House concurred during last Tuesday’s session with Torres’ budget projection for the next fiscal year and his committee is ready to hold budget hearings in about two weeks’ time.
Demapan gave the statement moments after the House unanimously voted on Demapan’s House Concurrent Resolution 20-02, which indicates Torres’ identified funding of $258.1 million is approved after consulting with the Department of Finance and the Office of Management and Budget in a committee meeting last week.
While $258.1 million was identified for all of fiscal year 2019, which starts this Oct. 1, 2018 and ends on Sept. 30, 2019, only $167 million is available for appropriation after earmarked funds are transferred.
“We are working with the departments and agencies and some of the autonomous agencies to work on their schedules,” said Demapan. He said critical agencies such as the Public School System, law enforcement, and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., among others, would be prioritized in the budget hearing scheduling.
“All the critical programs go first,” he said.
Torres announced the $258.1-million budget for fiscal year 2019 in an April 2 statement, taking note of a 14-percent increase, or about $21.4 million, from the previous fiscal year’s $236.7- million budget.
The announcement highlighted proposed earmarks of $42.7 million to PSS, which is more than 25 percent as constitutionally mandated, and $5.5 million to CHCC for the compensation of indigent care and care for inmates. The announcement also noted that this was the “first time in years” that both were included in the proposed budget.