House minority leader Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) questions why the Legislature seems to be the only one whose budget is being targeted for cuts, saying this is against the Planning and Budget Act.
Propst laments that the $7,500 monthly allotment of each member of the Legislature—House and Senate—went down to $4,300 and is expected to be reduced for the rest of the fiscal year.
“We took a huge and unannounced cut. We didn’t get any notice from the [Torres] administration,” he said. “That means I don’t have enough funds to pay my staff for the month of May. It is very troubling to see that happening because they also have families to feed. I am not alone in this. There are other representatives and senators who are going to lay off their staff and make big cuts.”
He pointed out that his monthly allotment, originally set at $7,500, goes to his public service projects for Precinct 1. “For the record, I never have received any cent on the so-called allowance; I never take one penny. My entire allotment goes to public service or helping people, one way or another.”
The Planning and Budget Act states that decreases in estimated revenues may be absorbed “proportionately” by all branches, offices, departments, and agencies of the Commonwealth government.
He said the budget cuts on the Legislature’s funds is illegal because “it is not proportionate and it is not across-the-board. We don’t see the governor make a 40-percent cut to his budget, do we? Is the Judiciary taking a 40-percent cut? Are others making these huge cuts?
“It is like the Legislature has been targeted and we are receiving the biggest cut. So, it is frustrating,” he added.
Propst pointed out that House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) keeps the House minority in ithe loop, “…including the minority on the issues that affect us all. …He meets with the minority to discuss issues.”
The House minority is also hoping to get a chance to meet with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. “We welcome a meeting with him to discuss a lot of concerns, including the $26-million deficit that occurred before [Super Typhoon] Yutu in fiscal year 2018 ending on Sept. 30,” Propst said
Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) pointed out that, with CNMI revenue collections not what the Torres administration had expected, the more important it is for the Legislature to scrutinize the fiscal year 2020 budget, which outlines the expected expenditures of the government.
“We actually face a budget cut of at least $30 million or probably more this fiscal year. We’ve been hearing that the governor is going to notify the Legislature soon of more proportionate cuts. We know that our offices have seen allotment cuts even for just this month,” she said.
“It will likely be necessary to adjust the revenue for [fiscal year] 2020. To have a true picture of our government’s finances, we would need the reported revenue collection from Oct. 1, 2018 to April 30, 2019, projected cash flows, and we need to know assumption of the administration.”