FOR FISCAL YEAR 2019
Torres submits $258.1M budget
Tag: budget, COTA, PSS, Settlement Fund Agreement
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres submitted to the Legislature over the weekend a proposed budget of $258.1 million for Fiscal Year 2019, which represents a 14.99-percent increase from the previous fiscal year.
It includes proposed earmarks of $42.7 million to the Public School System, which is more than 25 percent of constitutionally mandated funding for PSS; and $5.5 million to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. to finally compensate for indigent care and the care of prisoners—marking the first time in years that both were included in the proposed budget.
“I submitted a budget that builds upon the progress of the last couple of years. My budget makes critical investments in key areas, while ensuring that we continue to fully address our government’s longstanding obligations in a fiscally sustainable manner,” Torres said in a statement.
Torres added that his proposed budget supports the needs of the CNMI’s growing and thriving population and projects revenues for this next year increasing by about $21.4 million.
“This budget is part of the overall step toward a future that expands opportunity for everyone who calls these islands home. This is not a perfect budget, and we are cognizant of the several challenges that lie ahead. But we look forward to working with the Legislature on a budget that will not only strike a fair balance for all of our government agencies, but also to address the critical needs of our community,” he said.
In his transmittal letter to Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) and House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan), the governor said the Commonwealth’s gross budgetary resources are derived from taxes.
“Business gross revenue tax, income tax, excise taxes, and other taxes (hotel occupancy, bar and beautification taxes), are 91 percent of total budgetary resources,” he said.
Torres added that the net resources available for general appropriation is $167,039,225, after adjusting for debt service appropriations, earmarked funds, and other legal obligations. The budgetary gross adjustment reflects the inclusion of the allocation to the Settlement Fund amounting $44 million.
The $44 million is authorized pursuant to Public Law 20-33 (the Settlement Fund Revolving Fund) as stipulated in the Settlement Fund Agreement 468-1 (Case 1:09-CV-00023) Section II §1.26. In total, the allocation of $55,306,827, or 21 percent set aside, for the legal obligations of the government to the Settlement Fund for the minimum annual payment sufficient to enable the Fund to pay the 75 percent of Class Members Full Benefits.
Torres told Palacios and Demapan that he remains optimistic that the CNMI economy will continue to flourish in the coming fiscal year.
“This budget anticipates a modest revenue growth to enable the Commonwealth to continue to provide valuable services to the community. The estimates for FY 2019 continue to factor the assumptions for economic growth resulting from continued higher number in tourist arrivals, as well as continued collection and increased enforcement actions by the regulatory agencies of the Commonwealth,” he said.
PSS gets more, money for indigent care
Torres proposed budget of over $42 million to PSS surpasses the mandates of House Legislative Initiative 18-12 by allocating 25.6 percent of the total budgetary resources available for appropriation.
The governor said the $42,775,117 set aside for PSS represents a $6.2-million increase from last fiscal year’s budget.
Torres also gave CHCC $5,515,299 of which $250,000 would help defray the cost of medical care for the inmates incarcerated at the Department of Corrections and $2,750,000, set aside to help defray the cost of clinical services for the indigent population.
“Additional funding to CHCC is also allocated at 40 percent of the total funds available from Tobacco Settlement and Tobacco Control pursuant to the distribution stipulated in P.L. 13-37. The Compact Impact funds associated with this allocation is data driven thus the current estimate may be adjusted upwards depending on impact of services provided to Freely Associated States Citizens,” Torres added.
COTA gets sizeable budget
The Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority also got an increase in its budget as it moves toward the implementation of the islands’ transit system
Torres said the budget will be used to acquire four transit buses and the hiring of 15 transit bus drivers.
He noted that COTA’s first transit route would launch on April 9, 2018 between the Garapan district and the Northern Marianas College.
Additional routes will be implemented this year upon arrival of the transit buses procured through the Federal Transit Authority Programs.
“This program is a critical component of our efforts to encourage greater participation of our residents in our labor force. Consistently we witness potential employees unable to assume full-time positions in our economy due to the inability to find consistent transportation to their place of employment. More broadly, this program will aid in encouraging the community to utilize the transit system to help save energy and promote a clean environment,” he said in justifying COTA’s budget to Palacios and Demapan.
Other highlights of this year’s budget proposal include:
-$18,685,724, for the First and Second Senatorial Districts
-$11,019,340, for the retirees Group Health and Life Insurance
-$4,892,553, for the Northern Marianas College
-$4,640,200, for Medicaid Matching
-$3,058,094, for the Third Senatorial District community programs
-$978,505, for the Department of Corrections to fully fund inmate meals
-$799,319, for the Substance Abuse & Rehabilitation Program
-$450,000, for mold remediation at the Guma Hustisia
-$340,000, for the Emergency Operations Center acquisition of a webEOC software
-$322,167, for Medical Referral’s hiring of Utilization Reviewers
-$200,000, for the Department of Labor’s supplement of the summer job program
-$177,000, for the Joeten Kiyu Public Library Expansion