Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) called yesterday for a Senate emergency session today, Tuesday, to address the “product” or report of the bicameral conference committee that worked out a mutually acceptable budget for the CNMI government’s operations in fiscal year 2022.
Hofschneider scheduled the emergency session at the Senate chamber at 2pm, during which the full Senate is expected to adopt the conference committee “product” on the budget bill.
House of Representatives Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan), on the other hand, set a regular session this Thursday at 1:30pm, during which one of the items on the agenda is the conference committee’s report.
The full Senate and House are expected to adopt during their respective sessions the conference committee’s report that recommends for both chambers to pass the budget legislation, House Bill 22-74 in the form of HD3, SD1, Conference Committee Substitute 1.
The bicameral conference committee’s meeting Friday afternoon lasted only two hours and 30 minutes. All six members of the committee voted for the adoption of their mutually agreed amendments in the budget legislation, paving the way for the Legislature to approve the $144.84-million spending plan.
Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) is the chairperson of the Senate’s conference committee, while Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) is the chairperson of the House’s conference committee.
According to the conference committee’s report, the conferees unanimously agreed to most of the amendments made by the Senate and primarily focused their deliberations on the Judicial Branch, Legislative Branch, other programs, outside sources, and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. subsidy.
After the full Senate and House adopt the conference committee’s report, both chambers are expected to subsequently pass the budget bill. The bill will then be submitted to the table of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres 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.
From the $144,848,801 total identified budgetary resources for fiscal; year 2022, minus debt service, 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.
Add to that the $175 million allocated to the CNMI in the American Rescue Plan Act, which means the lawmakers appropriated $278,384,323 in combined general local funds and ARPA funds for fiscal year 2022.