Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said Tuesday that to have the House of Representatives majority start attacking him and the Department of Public Safety for allegedly engaging in lavish spending of government money, they should look at themselves first for trying to increase their discretionary budget by $1.2 million.
“When they need something, when the family member needs an emergency who they’re [going to] call? 911. Who is there to help? Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, police officers and so forth,” said Torres in response to a question during a press conference held in the governor’s office conference room.
Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan) recently accused the Torres administration of lavish spending, including buying new cars for everybody at DPS in what he described as “too many that he can’t count all of them.”
Rep. Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan) during a recent press conference also echoed Rep. Vicente C. Camacho’s (D-Saipan) statement that Torres is spending government funds “like there is no tomorrow.”
Torres asked if it is lavish when the administration has to update all the vehicles, to update their computers, and to do all for the departments to provide better services.
“How do you provide better services if all your equipment is 20 years old, 10 years old, regardless what it is?” he said.
The governor said everyone needs to update their equipment in order to provide healthcare services, better public services, better 911, better emergency vehicles, and ambulances.
“We need to upgrade all of our vehicles and update all our training for every government employee. Then you can ask for a better service,” he said.
Torres said he believes that the House majority’s increase of $1.2 million is what’s lavish because they cut all other services, and they increase their request on their own budget for discretionary.
With respect to the budget bill for the government’s operations for Fiscal Year 2023, the governor said he can’t sign the legislation if it doesn’t get to his table before today, Friday.
He said he can’t give credit to the House, but can give credit to the Senate for having a version of the budget that they pass within a month because they know how critical it is.
“How can I give the House credit for waiting almost five months for only the most important constitutional obligation of the Legislature which is to pass a balanced budget?” he said.
On the accusations by Camacho and other House majority members that he raised salaries of Cabinet members, Torres dared them to request for an Open Government Act so they can man up on what they’re talking to the community.
“Trust me, if there’s one, they’ll be happy to announce who. But for somebody from the legislature to just arbitrarily say, oh they’re giving so much raise to the Cabinet, man up and mention who the Cabinet member is,” he said.
With respect to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, Torres said how the House acted is totally illegal because they have no authority to reprogram, program, or decide what percent to use to fund government personnel.
“So when you put 80% ARPA fund, and 20% local fund and you switch that around, that in itself is already an unbalanced budget,” he pointed out.
Torres asked the House majority if they have the authority to reprogram Public Schools System’s funds for federal programs.
“Why haven’t they done that? Why have they done any other? Because they don’t have the authority. So for them to arbitrarily say, well, we have the authority. They cannot have the authority,” he said.
The governor said assuming the Legislature passed a legislation to appropriate ARPA and it becomes a law, they cannot write to the U.S. Treasury a letter, a proposal, a description, saying they want to take this money and use it for this.
“ It is the governor’s office that has that authority,” Torres said.
He said if they don’t have the authority to touch funds, reprogram or otherwise, then what their action shows that they did in fact reduce public health by $900,000 and so forth.
Torres added that the legislature is included into the ARPA process, but to arbitrarily say that they have the authority and he does not, “that’s not the right way, that’s wrong.”