A bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that would allow the CNMI government to borrow money from the Marianas Public Lands Trust in a bid to ease its current financial burden.
House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan), who pre-filed House Bill 21-44, said he would introduce the bill in a session either within the week or next week, and hopes the Senate could also act on it due to the urgency of the legislation.
“We need this for April. We need the money to start paying the vendors owed by the government and circulate that money,” he said.
Attao said the money borrowed from MPLT would settle the amount owed vendors and could then be used by businesses to pay their employees. The expected reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other funds from outside sources would replace that money spent.
When asked about it in yesterday’s House Ways and Means Committee meeting on Capital Hill, Department of Finance financial services manager Ryan Camacho said they would support the bill.
“Yes, we are looking for other ways to finance our current expenditures. And that would be very helpful,” said Camacho, who was joined by OMB chief Virginian Villagomez at the meeting.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has already expressed his administration’s support of the bill.
“My administration has taken expenditure reduction measures. …[But] despite these proactive expenditure reduction measures, the Commonwealth is facing a looming fiscal challenge,” said Torres in a letter to Attao.
“I have been advised by my acting secretary of Finance [Atalig] that large payments for our bond obligation and retirement settlement fund are due soon,” the letter added.
He said his administration remains optimistic that they would still make large payments, payroll, and other expenditures. “My administration believes it would be prudent to obtain a credit facility, such as a line of credit, to ensure we make all our payments on time.”
“We have spoken to MPLT about obtaining a line of credit and they are amenable to the idea. As in prior times when MPLT has extended lines of credit or loans to the Commonwealth and its agencies, MPLT would require the Legislature [to] pass a law securing the line of credit through the pledging of future interest income.”
Torres asked the Legislature to act on the bill.
“With your assistance and cooperation, I am confident in the government’s ability to confront our fiscal challenge and ensure that our obligations to our retirees and creditors will be met while we maintain continuous, stable government,” said Torres.