Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan) said strict enforcement of CNMI public laws can produce revenues for the government, especially at a time when the Torres administration is experiencing problems with their finances.
Guerrero, the House Commerce and Tourism Committee chairman, told Saipan Tribune that some members of the administration’s official family—especially the Cabinet secretaries—must be responsible in enforcing Commonwealth laws in order to collect the necessary fees and fines.
He even recalled that there was a student from Rota during this year’s Attorney General’s Cup that highlighted this. “This student used an analogy where we [CNMI] have so many laws in place for collection but we are lacking enforcement.”
“That’s an embarrassment when high school students are debating the issue and bringing in such vital information that we have too many laws but enforcement is absent.”
Guerrero even suggested that heads of each agency, department, or division should have a research team to research some of the CNMI’s public laws in order to see if they are being violated here in order to collect the needed fees and fines.
He also lauded Finance Secretary David Atalig in forming a task force in order to collect the needed taxes and go after the tax dodgers. “The task force should check those who are doing business here illegally and collect the proper taxes. We need to be mindful of that.”
“Finance has to enforce the laws. Revenue and Taxation need to sit down and figure out how many public laws from previous Legislatures that have been violated, to see if fees and fines must be imposed, and start collecting those. We should start enforcing and imposing penalties.”
Guerrero gave the sudden rise of Airbnb’s—legal or not—as an example especially with Public Law 20-30, which he introduced, as a legislation that added these establishments that must pay the hotel occupancy tax since they also provide accommodations.
“Finance should go all out to enforce and collect the proper taxes for the CNMI government. In this time and age, we have these budget issues and this [Airbnb’s] is a huge income for the CNMI government,” said Guerrero.
“Why do we continue enacting legislation when enforcement is a big issue? It seems like nobody wants to enforce it? Responsible agencies must conform to public laws and enforce it. I don’t see the rationale that we have a source of income but we can’t even enforce it?”
He said that it is easy to enforce the taxes for big hotels like Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan and the Hyatt Regency Saipan since they are visible and known hotels on the island. “How about these Airbnb’s? Which, I would probably say that they are almost 1,000?”
“We need to have Finance and Revenue and Taxation to have their personnel go out there and really enforce this law. They must reach out to these Airbnb’s and say, ‘listen, we have a public law that sets regulations that we need to collect your taxes on your business.’”