‘There are other funding sources’


There are other funding sources that the CNMI government could tap into aside from the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017, according to Rep. Antonio P. Sablan (Ind-Saipan). The Legislature is trying to work in passing House Bill 19-196 or the Appropriations and Budget Authority Act of 2017 that he introduced.

Last Saturday, in an emergency session, the House of Representatives voted 18-2 to reject the Senate version that reduced the Marianas Visitors Authority’s funds by $1.5 million while increasing the budget for Rota ($7.7 million) and Tinian ($7.8 million).

Passing the CNMI FY 2017 budget goes to a bicameral conference committee composed of three members each from the House and Senate. Sablan, being the House Ways and Means committee chair, was an original member of the House panel but went on leave following the death of his mother.

Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro (R-Saipan), the committee vice chair, replaced Sablan and she will be joining House vice Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) and from the minority bloc Rep. Anthony T. Benavente (Ind-Saipan).

Deleon Guerrero met with Ogumoro and Benavente yesterday but did not give any details of what was discussed.

Senate Fiscal Affairs committee chair Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), Senate vice president Sen. Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), and floor leader Steve K. Mesngon (R-Rota) are the Senate panel members.

They are set to meet anytime this week and they have 10 days or eight working days left to reach an agreement on the proposed budget and avert a government shutdown. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres must sign the bill before the end of FY 2016 on Sept. 30, 2016.

Sablan, after last Saturday’s emergency session, said the business gross revenue tax is another funding source aside from the $142,209,601 proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget given by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.

“This budget is not the only source of funds for the government for FY 2017. We have yet to work on the BGRT and that would be another source of revenue to fall back on in the form of supplemental budget,” said Sablan.

He added that in last year’s budget, which also went to a bicameral conference meeting, they had just agreed to reallocate roughly $300,000 to $400,000. “This budget we had a little bit more, so we decided to take care of the long-term obligations for Rota employees and put in additional funding for across the board salary increases. Those are long term.”

“That is what we’re trying to get across. When we see this new revenue, we must still maintain some sort of priority and don’t lose the fact for years we build up obligations because of a weak economy. Back then, we didn’t have the revenue and we weren’t able to pay some of the government obligations. So, we got to make sure that we go back and prioritize that.”

MVA funding

The Senate version cut MVA’s funds by $1.590 million and assigned it to other agencies and departments with the Saipan Mayor’s Office and the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services getting the huge chunk with $400,000 each.

The Saipan Mayor’s Office would use the money for its island-wide cleanup and beautification projects, and for its foreign students exchange program, while DFEMS aims to procure another fire truck.

The Department of Public Works and the Commonwealth Museum will be getting $300,000 each, while the Division of Parks and Recreation, under the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, is assigned $100,000. The Rota Department of Public Safety gets $90,000.

The $300,000 for DPW is for redesigning the roads around Paseo de Marianas in order to solve parking congestion, while the Commonwealth Museum would use the money for repairs and renovation.

The Division of Parks and Recreation’s allotment is for the cleanup and beautification of all the parks, and tourist and recreational sites, while Rota DPS’ money is for buying two more vehicles for their services.

Sablan said the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation has been supporting the Saipan Mayor’s Office with local appropriations. “I’ve got a bill that I want to work with the MVA board, I think they are willing to work with the mayor.

“The current law, for MVA obligates 2 percent for Tinian and Rota but none for Saipan. The bill is to add another 2 percent to that earmarking, so that we don’t need to keep going to MVA and try to always appropriate money out of their funds.”

He added that the Legislature must start thinking differently when it comes to MVA’s funds. “We can’t keep thinking that the MVA earmark is a surplus source of funds. We can’t keep thinking that they are unlimited source of funding every time somebody decides they needed money for something. We must stop that.”

“We got to work with the board. It is not like the board is saying that we want to keep everything. I think they have been doing an excellent job of sharing that revenue for each intended purpose, which is destination enhancement.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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