House of Representatives Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) said Tuesday that they are carefully looking into the changes the Senate made in its recently passed version of the CNMI government’s budget for fiscal year 2022.
Villagomez said in an interview that House Ways and Means chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) is going to meet with committee members to just go over the Senate’s version before they can decide whether to accept the changes or not.
He acknowledged that some issues have come up and they just want to make sure that they’re not as big of an issue as they seem. “So we just want to make sure that we do our due diligence,” said Villagomez, adding that they will work with the Legislative Bureau staff, their fiscal analyst, and legal counsel to make sure that the provisions in the Senate version are in order.
The Senate passed Thursday night its version of the $144.84 million budget bill.
Villagomez said they are optimistic that they should have a budget for fiscal year 2002 before the deadline. The current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, 2021. Unless a budget is enacted by then, the CNMI government will be forced to shut down.
If the House and the Senate fail to agree on the budget, this will trigger the formation of a conference committee composed of House and Senate representatives that will hammer out a budget that’s acceptable to both chambers.
If this happens, Villagomez said they should hopefully try to get that budget bill out and maybe get it to the governor by Sept. 11, 2021, so at least the governor has 20 days to review it.
The speaker is optimistic that they may have a decision on the budget by the end of the week. “I think that’s where the decision is going to be made, whether to accept it or reject,” Villagomez pointed out.
With $175 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, senators appropriated $278,384,323 in combined general local funds and ARPA funds.
From the $144,848,801 total identified budgetary resources for fiscal year 2022, with deduction of debt service, this leaves the government $98,897,301 that’s available for appropriation. Including the $4,487,022 budget for the Department of Public Lands, the grand total revenue available for appropriation is $103,384,323.
The Senate’s version of House Bill 22-74, House Draft 3, says that the Legislature concurs with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ use of the ARPA funds, as provided in Volume 4 of the governor’s annual budget submission of April 2021 as amended in July 2021, and the ARPA Section 602 to fund salary adjustments for government employees in fiscal year 2022.
This provision would render moot Manglona’s House Bill 22-33 that has not been acted on by the Senate. That bill seeks to give the Legislature appropriation powers over the CNMI’s share of ARPA money.
What the Senate did was take Volume 4 of the governor’s submission of the ARPA funds and embedded it into the departments and agencies and municipalities and the different branches of government.