House minority members Reps. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) and Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) welcomed Gov. Ralph DLG Torres holding a public outreach this week and inform the community of the state of the Commonwealth’s finances. The forum will be held at 5:30pm on Thursday at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multipurpose Center in Susupe.
Torres has invited the public to attend the said meeting where representatives from the administration will be making a presentation on the current economic and financial issues that the CNMI is facing, especially after the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yutu in late October last year.
It is not yet known if Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, Finance Secretary David Atalig, or Office of Management and Budget special assistant Virginian Villagomez will be at the meeting. Press secretary Kevin Bautista said the administration will be releasing an updated press release within the week on who will be the guests in the public forum.
r Propst thanked the governor for cutting short his trip to Japan to meet with the people of the Commonwealth. “This is a good start, and forums and meetings with our people are always important. We have a major economic crisis on our hands and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
“I sincerely hope he is open to visiting the Legislature along with his key cabinet members to answer our questions in the House and Senate. And of course, we would ensure it be broadcasted and open to the public. Working together does not mean we must agree on everything, but all legislators must have a seat at the table and that includes the Minority.”
Propst, however, questioned a recent meeting by the governor and the leadership of the majority at the Legislature last Thursday. “On another note, we heard there were private meetings with the governor and the legislative leadership this morning, and once again the minority was not included. My question is, why?”
Sablan, who is also vocal in wanting to get answers from the administration, in a Facebook post also welcomed the governor’s decision to hold the presentation. “It’s good that he [Torres] is finally holding a public forum on June 20.
“And, I encourage all concerned citizens to attend and demand the answers we deserve. I know I have a list of questions we’ve asked in the legislature that have yet to be answered. I’m sure many others have theirs.”
She said it has been an inspiring week with the various graduations being held in CNMI public schools. “We have plenty of reasons to celebrate the hundreds of young people reaching their educational milestones—the adversities they have overcome, especially this past year; the many ways they have grown in character, knowledge, and life experience; and the new chapters and opportunities that open up for them next.”
“These students should reaffirm for us our commitment to make things right for the education system that is raising our children to be great citizens. Because the sobering truth right now is that our Public School System is on the verge of shutdown.”
She added that PSS allotments was drastically cut where the agency is set to receive only $23 million or half of what was appropriated, would shut down the schools. “This drastic and devastating budget cut appears to be neither proportionate nor legal. It fails to meet the government’s constitutional obligation to deliver 25 percent of general fund resources to PSS. We haven’t seen funding levels like this for PSS in decades.”
Sablan also accused Torres of publicly attacking PSS, which was uncalled for. “[It] should be acknowledged for what they plainly are: an attempt to deflect his own responsibility for the fiscal crisis affecting our public schools and many other critical services across our government. He is the governor. The buck stops with him.”