Torres to House majority: How did I lie?
“How did I lie?”
Thus stated Gov. Ralph DLG Torres yesterday in response to the House of Representatives leadership’s press release, stating, among other things, that the governor either misread the budget bill or he is simply lying, and that he is misinforming the people.
Torres said that’s what the House majority did—they are incorporating resources that have not passed yet nor identified as resources from the Department of Finance.
“That’s totally irresponsible for the [House] majority to do,” said the governor as he showed an illustration on how the House majority’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal increases the House members’ allocations by $1.2 million and reduces the budget of departments and offices.
He reiterated that the House majority decreased the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s budget by $973,000, the Veterans Affairs Office by $151,000, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation by $103,000, Carolinian Affairs Office by $94,000, Indigenous Affairs Office by $89,000, and Women’s Affairs Office by $79,000.
He said the House majority reduced the Department of Corrections’ full-time employees by 56 and the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services by 29.
“Which one here is a lie?” Torres said.
The governor said to determine who is lying is just by looking at the budget bill that the House passed, and what local resources identified by the Department of Finance versus the House majority’s actions.
“And why did they pass the budget on a Saturday? I gave them the [proposed] budget on April 1,” Torres said.
He said the House majority members have no authority on the American Rescue Plan Act funds or reprogramming Compact Impact funds.
The governor asked Rep. Vicente Camacho (D-Saipan) who in the Cabinet got an increase.
“All talk no action,” said Torres, referring to Rep. Camacho and the Democrat lawmakers.
Camacho stated in the press release that instead of hiring an army of lawyers and giving huge raises to his Cabinet, Torres should be cutting expenses and trying to be more fiscally responsible.
Camacho also stated that the governor is “overspending like there is no tomorrow.”
The House leadership said in their press release Tuesday that compared to what Torres proposed in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget submission, the House leadership increased the level of funding to critical healthcare, community and cultural affairs, and public safety departments and agencies.
“The simple truth is that Gov. Torres is completely wrong,” the House leadership said.
Last week, Torres slammed the Democrats-controlled House majority leadership over their version of the FY 2023 budget bill that he described as “irresponsible, negligent, and illegal,” by first reducing the funding for the departments and agencies, yet giving themselves an additional $1.2 million of House allocations.
Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig said the administration proposed a $1.8-million budget for House members’ allocations, but the House bill increased it to $3 million.
Gilbert Birnbrich, the legal counsel for the Office of the Governor, said the biggest issue from a legal standpoint in the House’s version of the budget bill is the fact that the House was trying to appropriate the ARPA funds for various uses, which he believes is simply inappropriate and illegal.
House Ways and Means chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), who is the author of the House budget bill, said in their press release that a simple comparison shows that Torres actually zero-funded operations for several key departments and that this forces expenditure authorities to request ARPA money from Finance secretary on a case-by-case basis.