Ways & Means wants a clear view of the purse

Posted on Mar 06 2019

The House Ways and Means Committee is getting a clearer picture of the CNMI’s revenues and other finances a few months after the islands were devastated by Super Typhoon Yutu. The committee met yesterday at the House chamber where fiscal analyst David Demapan presented the CNMI government’s budget call for fiscal year 2020.

The Office of the Governor submitted a revenue estimate of $232,325,196 for fiscal year 2020—10 percent lower ($25,813,911) compared to the $258,139,107 budget for fiscal year 2019.

The Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) also called for a separate meeting last week with Department of Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson.

Committee chair Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) said they wanted to come up with the best way of having a balanced CNMI budget based on Demapan’s assumptions and his take on the numbers provided by the Office of Management and Budget, where a 10-percent reduction in the government’s revenues is expected.

“I wanted this meeting so [committee] members could ask questions on where the 10 percent is [coming from and] why…one of the reasons being the typhoon [Yutu]. It is just for the members to gain some understanding, but the result of the meeting is, there are more questions than answers,” said Blanco.

“The members asked that we reach out to Finance and OMB, to invite them so we can ask questions prior to the submission of the budget. What would be the revenues for the [last months of] 2018, [start of] 2019, and the outlook for 2020, minus that 10 percent. Where is it going to get cut?”

Blanco added that, based on Demapan’s presentation, the 10 percent is not applied to earmarks and debt service payments. “So, in his [Demapan] presentation, when we applied the 10-percent cut, then we would realize a $3.3 million plus in additional funding or revenue that would be available.”

He said he has heard different figures on how much revenues the CNMI has collected in the first two quarters of the 2019 fiscal year. “I believe, it was $7 million [in the] budget call. I’m also hearing $11 million. Until I see the official numbers, then we are going to work on those.”

“That’s why we need communication from OMB and Finance. We need to sit down with them to know where do we go from here. We’re likely to invite and sit down with them next Tuesday [March 12]. The following week will be crunch time for them because April 1 is the deadline.”

He added the committee just wanted to know the projections. “The members have some questions too. If the numbers are still coming in, that’s fine with us. But at least we would like to know the projections.”

“What to expect, what’s happening, and what do [they] need us to do in order to balance the budget. That’s our [Legislature] job—to ensure that we have a balanced budget based on the revenues that are coming in.”

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the reduction in the revenue estimates that his office submitted could go as high as 15 percent, which is why they have already informed the Legislature about the possible reduction. “We are seeing at least 10 to 15 percent [cut] for this current fiscal year budget.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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