The Senate unanimously approved Tuesday a House of Representatives concurrent resolution, with amendments, that agrees with the projected revenues and resources of the CNMI government that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had identified as available for appropriation in fiscal year 2023 beginning Oct. 1, 2022, and ending Sept. 30, 2023.
All eight senators present voted “yes” for the adoption of House Concurrent Resolution 22-2. Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian) was absent and excused from the session.
The concurrent resolution will go back to the House for action.
Before the voting, Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) offered amendments to reflect Torres’ revised budget proposal submitted last July to the Legislature.
House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) introduced Concurrent Resolution 22-2, which the full House adopted last April.The House-passed resolution reflected only what was submitted by Torres last April and didn’t reflect the additional $3 million that was identified in the governor’s revised budget submission in July.
The House’s Concurrent Resolution No. 22-2 basically approves the $101.35-million projected revenue that Torres had identified as available for government appropriation in his initial fiscal year 2023 budget submission. Torres’ revised proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 increased the net budgetary resources to $104.35 million. The amount in the governor’s budget submission is part of the $150.41 million in gross budgetary resources projected for fiscal year 2023. Fiscal year 2023 starts on Oct. 1, 2022.
Before the Senate’s adoption of the concurrent resolution, some senators and Senate legal counsel Antonette Villagomez discussed Sen. Paul A. Manglona’s (Ind-Rota) offer of a floor amendment to include $13 million in the concurrent resolution to pay the 25% pension for retirees. Manglona said the $13 million for retirees is a top priority and should be set aside immediately.
Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and Sens. Hocog, Vinnie F. Sablan (R-Saipan), Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan), and Karl R. King-Nabors (R-Tinian) voted “no” to Manglona’s amendment. Sens. Manglona, Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan), and Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) voted “yes.”
Before voting “no” to Manglona’s amendment, Hofschneider, who spoke mostly in Chamorro, said the direction of the Senate is that they are going to work hard to find a solution to fund the 25% pension for government retirees.
Sablan said that, based on Villagomez’s advice and direction of their fiscal analyst Dave Demapan, his vote is “no” to Manglona’s offer for amendment.
Hocog said he is confident that the Fiscal Affairs Committee that he chairs will find a plan to ensure that the 25% pension of the retirees will be looked into.
Hocog said they can look into that payment for 25% pension during the deliberation of the budget process.
In offering his amendments, Manglona said if they put $13 million in the concurrent resolution, that would lower the subtotal on item seven to $33,041,123 and also lower the total revenue and resources available under item 13 to $91,374,365, and thus the grand total on the House Concurrent Resolution, Senate Draft 1, will be $96,782,265.
When asked if Manglona’s amendments is allowable under the concurrent resolution, Villagomez said the House concurrent resolution basically is a resolution to approve the revenues of the Commonwealth and also to identify the funds that are going to be available for appropriation.
“That responsibility falls under the governor. …Only the governor can identify the revenue of the Commonwealth,” Villagomez said.
She said in this House concurrent resolution, all these numbers are based on the governor’s identification in his budget proposal that was submitted to the Legislature last April 1, and then as amended.
Villagomez said the current proposal to amend the House concurrent will affect all the final numbers that are going to be available for appropriation.
She said the bottom line right now is $109 million, so if Manglona’s offer for amendment is adopted, it will change the amount, or minus $13 million.
Villagomez said then the entire budget will be distorted and the governor will have to start all over again, or the House and the Senate will start all over again to figure out where to cut that $13 million.