Across-the-board budget cuts include governor’s office, lawmakers

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FUNDING for the offices of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios as well as the salaries of the 29 lawmakers will be reduced by 28.3 percent, the Office of Management & Budget stated in its proposed budget adjustments for fiscal year 2020.

Special Assistant for Management and Budget Vicky Villagomez notified the House members on Thursday about the adjustments in the allotments for the House members’ salaries, allocations, and leadership accounts.

Also attached to the notification is the spreadsheet of the proposed across-the-board adjustments for all branches, offices, and activities of the government.

Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig, in his letter to the governor last week, said the projected revenue for fiscal year 2020 went down from $148.8 million to $106 million in light of the steep decline in tourist arrivals due to the global novel coronavirus outbreak.

From $813,489 as appropriated by Public Law 21-8, the budget for personnel of the governor’s office will be reduced to $582,993 while the governor’s discretionary fund is down to $36,191 from $50,000.

The lt. governor’s personnel budget will be reduced from $605,801 to $434,152 and the discretionary fund, from $50,000 to $36,191.

From $385,996, the budget for the senators’ salaries is now $276,627, which means that each senator’s annual salary went down from $42,000 to $30,736. The senators’ office allocations were reduced by 19.1 percent. From $945,000 it is down to $763,780 while funding for the Senate leadership, which was set at $300,000 is now down to $242,470.

From $770,031, the budget for the House members’ salary has been adjusted to $551,848 or $27,500 annually or $12.98 an hour for each member.

In contrast, the salary of a construction and maintenance worker based on the prevailing wage certified by U.S. Labor is $13.97 an hour; a chef or head cook is $14.14 an hour; and a waiter/waitress is $8.28 an hour.

The allocations for the House members’ discretionary funds and the House leadership were reduced by 19.1 percent.

From $2.1 million, the budget for the House members’ office allocations is down to $1.6 million while the allotments for the House leadership have been reduced from $300,000 to $242,470.

The budget for the judicial branch was adjusted to $4,062,889 from $5.6 million.

Villagomez said the “adjustment in revenue, which triggered a 28.3 percent reduction in the remaining allotment authority to achieve a balanced budget was proportionately applied across all branches and activities of the Commonwealth.”

In an interview, House Minority Leader Edwin Propst said three years ago, he prefiled House Bill 20-39 to oppose the 80 percent salary increases for elected officials.

“I said that we did not know how the economy would be in the near future and if we could afford such a huge hike, which would cost taxpayers an additional $1.14 million each year. I was told by my critics that the economy was the strongest it had ever been and not to worry,” he said.

“It is always good to be fiscally conservative and cautious, especially when it comes to lavish salary increases we clearly cannot afford,” he added.

All the executive departments’ budgets were cut by 28.3 percent.

The budget for the Department of Finance went down to $4.7 million from $6.5 million; the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, from $5.1 million to $3.6 million; the Department of Labor, from $1.1 million to $810,861; the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, from $3.2 million to $2.3 million; the Department of Public Safety, from $6.9 million to $4.9 million; the Department of Public Works, from $2.9 million to $2,098,650; and the Department of Public Lands from $4.1 million to $2.9 million.

The budget for Rota municipal government is down to $6.4 million from $8.9 million; and Tinian, down to $6.4 million from $8.9 million.

The Saipan mayor’s office budget was reduced to $2 million from $2.9 million; and the Northern Islands, to $355,109 from $495,507.

The budget for Public School System, the new spreadsheet indicates, will be adjusted to $27 million from $37.7 million; Northern Marianas College, to $4.2 million from $5.9 million, while the subsidy for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is down to $1.4 million from $2 million.

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