TO AVOID PARTIAL SHUTDOWN
Conference committee members start work to resolve disagreements
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres expressed optimism yesterday that the Legislature’s conference committee will resolve the Senate and House of Representatives’ disagreements and will lead to the passage of a budget bill for fiscal year 2021 and avoid a partial government shutdown.
Torres also offered in a letter to Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) and House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) whatever assistance his office can help with to assist the conference committee with their work.
The conference committee started its work yesterday to iron out the two chambers’ disagreements on the CNMI’s appropriations bill. They have only until midnight tonight to resolve their differences, get the budget bill passed by both Senate and House, and get it to the desk of Torres before Oct. 1 hits. Otherwise, most of the CNMI government will have to shut down until a budget is enacted. When Saipan Tribune left the Senate chamber yesterday, committee members were still discussing their rules.
Torres assured Hocog and Attao that he and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios will be available all day, should they or members of the conference committee need the administration’s assistance or have any questions related to the budget.
“As the deadline for the passage of the budget nears, I am hopeful that we can all work together to avert a shutdown of the government,” the governor said.
Senate vice president Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) are presiding over the conference committee. The other members in the Senate team are Sens. Vinnie F. Sablan (R-Saipan) and Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota). Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian) is an alternate. The other members in the House team are floor leader Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) and Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan). Rep. Joel C. Camacho (R-Saipan) is an alternate.
The conference committee was created after the House rejected the Senate’s version of the budget bill with an 18-2 vote during Sunday’s special session.
Last Saturday, the Senate passed its version of the budget bill that proposes $96.47 million in available revenue and resources for appropriation for fiscal year 2021.
The Senate’s version is $13.81 million more than what the House had adopted in the amount of $82.65 million.
Last July 1, Torres submitted a revised revenue projection in the amount of $144.41 million. Of this amount, the governor approved $82.65 million for government appropriation.