Among vetoed items are payment of utilities to Rota, Tinian; transfer of $1.4M of CW funds to NMTI, NMC
In signing the budget law for fiscal year 2021, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres line-item vetoed several provisions, including one that requires the Executive Branch to foot the utilities for Rota and Tinian and another that transfers $1.4 million in Commonwealth Worker fee to the Northern Marianas Technical Institute and Northern Marianas College.
Line-item vetoes, which refers to the power of the governor to nullify or cancel specific provisions of a budget appropriating bill without vetoing the entire legislative package, are usually subject to the possibility of legislative override.
In his letter to legislative leaders last Thursday, Torres said he signed budget bill into Public Law 21-35 but is compelled to address sections that are “problematic” in their implementation on their unfairness to other activities of the different branches.
“My comprehensive review, comments and explanation for my actions on the bill will be forthcoming in the next couple of days, including my reasoning for the line-item vetoed provisions,” the governor said.
One of the items that Torres vetoed would require the Executive Branch to pay for the utilities of Rota and Tinian in fiscal year 2021. Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan) had earlier balked at that provision, saying he is bothered by that when the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. can disconnect the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. on Saipan for failing to pay its bills. During the House’s emergency session early Thursday morning, Guerrero disclosed that the utilities issue was the biggest reason why he did not put his signature in the compromise budget version. He later voted for the passage of the budget bill, though.
The other provision that Torres line-item vetoed was the CW Fund. The bill requires that, of the $1.1 million in CW Fund, $600,000 and $800,000 shall be transferred to the Northern Marianas Technical Institute and NMC, respectively, for their vocational educational curricula, apprenticeships, or other training programs.
The bill allows the transfer of CW Fund to NMTI, provided that $50,000 of the funds shall be reserved each for Rota’s and Tinian’s training programs. The bill would also allow the transfer of CW Fund to NMC provided that $50,000 of the funds allocated to NMC shall be used for the Nursing Program equipment and supplies.
Under the new budget law, the revenue and resources available for appropriation for government activities in fiscal year 2021 is $96,476,054 and $4,556,164 from the Department of Public Lands, for a grand total of $101,032,218.
A total of $4.74 million is appropriated to the Judiciary; $6.09 million to the Legislature; and $22.54 million for the Executive Branch.
The Department of Commerce is appropriated $1.03 million; Department of Community & Cultural Affairs, $988,476; Department of Corrections, $2.8 million; Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, $3.56 million; Department of Finance, $1 million; Department of Labor, $507,575; Department of Lands & Natural Resources, $850,996; Department of Public Safety, $4.94 million; and the Department of Public Works, $3.27 million.
Rota is appropriated $5.62 million; Tinian and Aguiguan, $5.56 million; and Saipan and Northern Islands mayors and Saipan Municipal Council, $2.08 million.
Boards and commissions are appropriated $1.02 million; independent programs, $18.81 million; and other programs that are transferred out to agencies, $29.48 million (including Public School System, $24.12 million and PSS board, $153,131).
Torres approved the grand total budget of $228.48 million to autonomous agencies: The Commonwealth Development Authority, Commonwealth Ports Authority, Commonwealth Utilities Corp., Northern Marianas Housing Corp., Office of the Public Auditor, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., Commonwealth Casino Commission, and Marianas Visitors Authority.