‘Partial shutdown a possibility’


Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, left, and Gilbert Birnbrich, counsel for the Office of the Governor, held a press conference yesterday morning about the administration’s preparation for a possible partial government shutdown. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres yesterday morning warned the community about the possibility of a partial government shutdown and that he is fully blaming it on the House of Representatives’ leadership for taking so long to pass the budget for the government’s operations in Fiscal Year 2023.

Torres made the warning at a press conference held in the Governor’s Office, or a few hours before the House rejected the Senate’s version of the budget bill.

The governor said he wants to inform the community that if the House is going to reject the Senate’s version of the budget bill that leaves him a couple of days to review it.

“I am legitimately warning the community that there might be a potential shutdown and I am  100% blaming it on the leadership of the House because it took them this long to pass this budget,” he said.

Torres has until Oct. 1, 2022 to enact a new budget bill into law or risk a partial shutdown of government operations in an election year.

The governor said it is not fair for any government employee  to be worrying whether there’s going to be a shutdown or not. “I want all the government employees to know that I’m very disappointed with the House leadership,” he said.

Torres said this budget proposal has been given to the House on April 1, 2022 and it took them all the way to Aug. 27, 2022, a Saturday, to pass it.

He said the House transmitted that budget bill to the Senate on Aug. 29, 2022.

The governor said the Senate unanimously passed their version of the budget Friday, or less than a month after receiving it from the House.

“Obviously I want to give them [senators] praise and praise all of them that it took them less than a month to come out  with their version and they passed a budget that is best for the community and best for the government,” he said.

Torres said it is not fair for the House to hold this budget bill and to pass it in late August and then expect the governor to just sign it in a day.

“It’s very negligent on their part. And I want to thank the Senate for passing a balanced budget,” he said.

Regarding the partial shutdown, Torres said they have to go back to the definition on what or who are essential employees.

“I don’t know on top of my head the actual number, but based on the definition, I think public health offices continue to move forward and law enforcement [officers] continue as well,” he said.

Torres said under the shutdown, there is a definition on who are essential employees and if they are not part of the essential then they don’t report to work.

Gilbert Birnbrich, counsel for the Office of the Attorney General, disclosed at the same press conference that they are beginning  preparations for a potential  shutdown.

“We have to be prepared for that. We have certain procedures,”  said Birnbrich, adding that they are meeting with a group of government officials and staff to review and go over  the list of essential government employees.

Torres said if the Legislature does not have the authority to  reprogram or even program American Rescue Plan Act funds, that should be first out of the question.

He said the second big issue is the Compact Impact funding, which the Legislature does not have the authority to appropriate as well.

“My compromise is that the Senate passed the budget. Whether I agree with it 100%, but it’s definitely more balanced than what the House passed,” the governor said.

He said how the House majority acted on ARPA is illegal as they have no authority to reprogram or program or decide what percent to use.

“And that’s the biggest part, the biggest issue here,” Torres said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.