A Rota senator continues to follow up with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for a response on his request earlier this year assistance for “reliable factual information” on the financials of the CNMI government.
In a letter dated Dec. 4, 2019, Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) followed up on the inquiries he sent Torres in a letter dated on June 12, 2019, way before the passage of the fiscal year 2020 budget.
In that previous letter, Manglona asked Torres for specific information on financial matters, including casino gross receipt taxes, exclusive casino license fee, Development Plan Advisory Committee reports, status of the Marianas Public Land Trust loan, Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance, and the $20-million annual Casino Community Benefit Fund.
“As we all know, the budget bill is very much dependent on realistic current revenue estimates, true cost of government operations, deficit reduction schedule, strict financial controls, and honest assessments of program impacts,” he wrote Torres in his most recent letter, adding that a response is “necessary and pertinent” even though the budget bill had already been enacted.
Manglona also raised questions regarding the casino business gross receipt tax, or the casino BGRT, noting that the casino paid about $41 million in fiscal year 2016, $68 million in fiscal year 2017, and $44 million in fiscal year 2018. In 2019, the casino only paid $41,000 since July 2019.
Manglona also asked about the $15 million exclusive casino annual license fee and whether it should or should not be mixed into the general funds to alleviate “cash management problems” of the government.
He also asked Torres about the status of FEMA assistance, in terms of how much public assistance funds the government was expected to receive and whether or not they were flexible enough to offset revenue dips.
“Realistic figures on the true cost of operations must be factored into the budget bill. There is no doubt that our practice of omitting or knowingly under-budgeting known, unavoidable costs from the budget, including government utilities, medical referral services, Medicaid matching requirements, Commonwealth Health Care Corp. indigent care costs, and the Public School System’s 25% earmarking constitutional requirement has been a few of the main reasons for our government’s overspending,” he wrote.