Senate passes budget bill
Combined general, ARPA funds equal $278.38M appropriation for FY 2022
The full Senate adopted at an emergency session yesterday the “product” of the bicameral conference committee that worked out a $144,848,801 budget for the CNMI government’s operations in fiscal year 2022.
Eight senators voted “yes” to adopt the conference committee’s report, essentially passing the budget legislation, House Bill 22-74, in the form of HD3, SD1, Conference Committee Substitute 1. One senator was absent.
Before the voting, Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) said he called for the emergency session because they need to tackle this budget bill so Gov. Ralph DLG Torres will have enough time to review the budget numbers.
The full House of Representatives is also expected to adopt the bicameral conference committee’s report and pass the budget bill during their regular session tomorrow, Thursday.
After the House’s passage of the budget bill, the legislation will then be submitted to Torres’ table for his signature before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, 2021. Without a budget for the new fiscal year, the CNMI government will be forced to have a partial shutdown.
Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota), who is the Senate chairperson on the conference committee, said they identified $144,848,801 in total budgetary resources from the general revenue for fiscal year 2022. Minus debt service in the total amount of $45,951,500, this leaves the government $98,897,301 that’s available for appropriation. Including the $4,487,022 budget for the Department of Public Lands, the grand total revenue available for appropriation is $103,384,323.
Hocog said that combining the general fund and the $175 million allocated to the CNMI in the American Rescue Plan Act, the CNMI government will have at its disposal a total of $278,384,323 in fiscal year 2022.
He said before he moved for the approval of the $103.38 million available resources to fund the operations of the CNMI during fiscal year 2022, he should also point out some of the aspects on the revenue estimate of $144.84 million as well as where the funding sources of the $103.38 million will be used in the operation and activities of the CNMI government.
Hocog said when the revenue estimate of $144.84 million is compared to fiscal year 2021 revenue estimate of $144.4 million, it shows a slight increase of $400,000. He said such slight increase from FY 2021 level indicates that FY 2022 projection on the revenue estimate appears conservative due to the negative economic effect caused by COVID-19.
Hocog said with the CNMI’s economy shutdown because of the pandemic, the CNMI has been receiving financial assistance from the federal government, such as the CARE Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.
“We are aware of the emergence of several deadly variants…but we remain vigilant and optimistic that, if we work together as a team, nothing is impossible to accomplish,” he said.
Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) commended and thanked the chairpersons of the conference committee and members for mutually agreeing on majority of the provisions and allocations in the proposed budget, which resulted in a quick product of both houses. Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) is the House chairperson on the conference committee.
Santos thanked the conferees for ensuring that 25% is allocated to the Public School System, and for maintaining the allocation for the Northern Marianas College and the municipalities of Rota and Tinian—as provided in the Senate version—considering that the prices of goods, services, water and air transportation are higher.
The senator also applauded restoring Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s budget allocation as initially proposed by the House and providing clarity as to the responsibility in the interisland medical referral program or services.