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Government ‘moving forward with new budget’

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“WE’RE moving forward with the new budget,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Friday during a  press briefing on KKMP radio.

The governor thanked the local community, government employees, and their families for their patience and understanding.

“It’s a new fiscal year. We have a lot of work to do, and I continue to ask…the Legislature to look into more new revenue-generating bills and…[the] secretary of Finance, [to] be aggressive in collecting the taxes that are owed to the CNMI while assisting new businesses,” he added.

During the Legislature’s deliberations over the budget for this new fiscal year, some members of the House of Representatives had expressed their opposition to granting the governor 100% reprogramming authority within the executive branch.

According to the governor, “If you look at all of the revenue that we have under the executive branch, I need this 100% within my branch to make sure that other programs are functioning.”

He added, “It’s not like I’m tapping funds from the Legislature or the judiciary.”

Citing the Covid-19 pandemic, the governor said he has 100% reprogramming authority under the state of emergency, noting that there are departments that need help from other departments, hence the movement of funds within the executive branch.

“Giving me this flexibility [to reprogram funds] is just making sure that...the executive branch continues to function moving forward,” he said.

Among those who reviewed the budget bill before it was signed by the governor were Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, Attorney General Edward Manibusan, Deputy Attorney General Lillian A. Tenorio, Special Assistant for Management and Budget Virginia Villagomez, technical financial analysts Jazmin L. Camacho and Nadia DLG Benjamin, governor’s legal counsel Gilbert J. Birnbrich, senior policy advisor Robert Hunter, Press Secretary Kevin Bautista and policy analyst Janina Maratita.

At 4:15 a.m. on Thursday, Torres signed House Bill 21-124, SD2, CCS1 into law, averting a partial government shutdown.

In signing Public Law 21-35, the governor also vetoed several items, including a provision that would have required the executive branch to pay for the utilities of Rota and Tinian.

The appropriations act approves and identifies total budgetary resources amounting to $144.4 million for FY 2021.

Of this amount, $47.9 million is set aside for debt service, including $41 million for the settlement agreement with government retirees.

The  total local revenue and resources available for appropriation for CNMI government activities amount to $96.4 million, which does not include the over $4.5 million for the Department of Public Lands. 

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