With still 40 days to go before the statutory deadline for the governor to submit a proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres now has a definite number on the amount that the CNMI government will be budgeting for operations for fiscal year 2021: $111 million.
Special assistant for management and budget Virginia Villagomez disclosed that after deducting all earmarks, Settlement Fund payments, and debt service, the net budgetary resources available for appropriation in fiscal year 2021 is $111,195,556.
The law that set the CNMI’s budget for this fiscal year, Public Law 21-08, appropriated $233.22 million for the CNMI. Last Feb. 7, though, Finance Secretary David Atalig informed Torres that the gross revenue estimates for the current fiscal year are now expected at $184.83 million, which is a drop of $48.39 million from the $233 million that was originally projected. Much of that was blamed on the lingering effects of Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit the CNMI in October 2018.
Villagomez discussed the governor’s proposed annual budget for fiscal year 2021 in her Feb. 3 memorandum to all department and activity heads, autonomous/semi-autonomous agencies, independent programs, and federal programs.
In it, she said that the $111.19 million is a 25.31% drop in the budget and will cause a significant reduction affecting all branches of the government. Villagomez said revenue projections for this budget are based on the assumptions of current collections and accounts for key economic factors anticipated to affect the CNMI’s growth in economy. Those key factors include the trend in current collections, the cancellation of the four weekly flights from China due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the risk factors over emerging global events.
When asked to comment yesterday, House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) said it is too early to comment on the budget, but he is glad that the Office of Management and Budget has reached out to agency heads for the budget call.
Blanco said there are adjustments that need to be made, and they won’t know what those changes are until revenue numbers are realized.
He said this is the same for the remaining seven months of fiscal year 2020.
While the 64-hour work reduction won’t kick off until mid-March, Blanco said he wants to take this opportunity to seek help from the business community, on behalf of all employees, that they consider extending interest-free loan/mortgage/vehicle payment deferments at least for the remainder of this fiscal/calendar year.
“I acknowledge the tremendous help our business community extended to affected families after typhoons Soudelor and Yutu with their payment deferments. Payment deferments can help ease the burden on families [that are] already struggling,” Blanco said.
Villagomez said she is issuing the budget call to all expenditure authorities to submit their proposed budget and spending plans for fiscal year 2021, in accordance with the governor’s constitutional duty to submit a balanced budget proposal to the Legislature.
Pursuant to the Commonwealth Code, the governor’s proposed annual budget for fiscal year 2021 must be submitted to the Legislature by April 1, 2020.