But some lawmakers uncertain how to spend it
Each of the 20 Saipan lawmakers stands to get $2,500 in “operational funds” from the Rota Legislative Delegation’s recent $50,000 partial payment of longtime debts and they have until Sept. 30 to spend it. But some lawmakers interviewed yesterday said they’re uncertain how or where they can spend the money on.
Some Saipan lawmakers believe this is the first time or at least the only time in recent period that operational funds are given to each member of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation.
Rota lawmakers got the $50,000 partial payment from a recent $2-million appropriation each for Rota and Tinian, taken from the $30-million advance license fee that exclusive Saipan casino developer Best Sunshine International Ltd. paid the government.
Rep. Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), chairman of the now 20-member Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, issued a memorandum yesterday to SNILD members, informing them that they have been apportioned $2,500 each “for SNILD operational expenditure” pursuant to the recently signed Rota Local Law 18-15, Section 1(B).
“Be advised that your office [has] until Sept. 30, 2014, to expend your allotted amount,” Tebuteb said in his one-page memo.
In an interview, Tebuteb said the funds have to be spent on delegation functions but he said it would be up to each member to justify their spending on Saipan and the Northern Islands.
Just like the Northern Marianas Descent Corp., which was appropriated $100,000 from a local bill, Saipan lawmakers also have to justify the funds they are getting.
As delegation chairman and expenditure authority, Tebuteb serves as the “clearinghouse” for these funds.
Funds that are unspent would revert to the SNILD, Tebuteb said.
Rep. George Camacho (R-Saipan) said the $2,500 funding will be used “toward various community projects such as beautification efforts and repairs of some facilities.”
“We will make sure it goes to good use,” Camacho said.
Rep. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan) said yesterday he’s aware of the $2,500 funding for each Saipan lawmaker but he said he’s seeking clarification how and where he can spend it.
Yumul, chairman of the House Tourism Committee, suggests that lawmakers pool their $2,500 together rather than spend them separately in their precincts, to improve a common tourist site.
“I believe this is the first time we’re getting this kind of funding and we need clarification how we can spend it. Can lawmakers use it for precinct road repairs, for example?” he said.
He said, however, that as a member of the House of Representatives, all his expenses are accounted for and if there is any balance, he buys school supplies and distribute them to schools.
Other Saipan lawmakers asked last night, however, are not yet aware of the $2,500 apportionment.
Tebuteb said with the Rota Legislative Delegation’s recent payment of $50,000, they now have only $240,000 remaining debt to the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation.
The $50,000 partial payment was equally distributed among the 20 members of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation. The delegation used to have 21 members, before lieutenant governor candidate Ray Yumul resigned as a senator.
Tebuteb, in his memo, also advised delegation members to see his staffer Lynn B. Duenas, “for processing of your SNILD expenses.”
Section 1(B) of Rota Local Law 18-15 reads, “$50,000 for the payment of the debt owed to the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation as appropriated in Saipan Local Law 16-4 under the expenditure authority of the chairman of SNILD.”
That same Rota local law appropriated more than $1.6 million for Rota retirees’ 25-percent pension, among other things.