Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ team has started their review of the $233-million budget bill for the upcoming fiscal year, 19 days before his Sept. 30, 2019, deadline.
Torres said yesterday that his office, through the Office of the Attorney General and the Office on Management and Budget, has started reviewing the 49-page legislation appropriating to the CNMI government’s a total of $148.89 million for their annual budget.
He said he will be meeting with the OAG sometime this week to go over the spending plan and he is “very optimistic” in approving it. “I know there are some issues raised, but this is part of the [budget] process,” he said. “We are going to look into [the budget bill’s] first quarter [of the fiscal year 2020] and go from there.”
He assured that the central government is monitoring its financial state and the CNMI’s overall revenue that comes in weekly.
When asked if his office has a timeline on the budget bill’s enactment, he assured that if there are no issues after the OAG’s review, then it would definitely be signed before Sept. 30, 2019.
“The earlier, the better,” he added.
Failure to enact a budget before the start of fiscal year 2020 on Oct. 1, 2019, would result in a partial CNMI government shutdown until a budget is enacted.
Rep. Ivan A. Blanco’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 21-64, or the fiscal year 2020 budget bill, is the first bill since 2009 to have skipped the conference committee altogether. It is expected that the fiscal year 2020 would be starting without austerity measures and comes with additional monthly and quarterly reports from the Department of Finance to the Legislature for monitoring of the CNMI’s finances.
The Department of Finance secretary is required to compare between the CNMI’s projected revenue and actual revenue and the projected expenditures and actual expenditures monthly, while also reporting all funds transferred out each quarter.
The new reporting requirements are Senate amendments inserted by Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) in a previous Senate session.
The House accepted the Senate changes on Sept. 6, 2019, with a vote of 14-2. Reps. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) and Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) voted against it.