Editorials | So very concerned

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Your concern is good, but they need to get their jobs back

IN this election year, elected officials are deeply concerned about the plight of the 500 or so government employees who were furloughed amid the economic meltdown caused by the global and local Covid-19 restrictions. Some lawmakers want to know “the criteria that the administration used in selecting those who were furloughed.” Fair enough.

Still, politicians expressing sympathy with (and/or outrage on behalf of) voters is par for the course. It’s not exactly news, as we say in the biz. What should be news — and more useful to the furloughed employees — is an elected official actually doing something about their (temporary?) joblessness.

But so far, no one among the lawmakers — including the perennially concerned — have publicly stated how they intend to raise the over $13 million needed to re-hire the furloughed employees. Probably because it would be like getting blood from a stone.

It’s hard and is likely to involve making tough decisions. (If not this group of employees, then who instead should be furloughed?)

No. It’s easier to express concern. And complain. And assign blame.

Again, par for the (political) course. But some may wonder. When they’re finally in charge and are calling the shots on Capital Hill, then what? More expressions of concern? More fault-finding? More passing the buck?

Insinuation in aid of legislation?

THE House minority bloc has proclaimed that “the people of the Marianas deserve to know whether and how there have been abuses of public funds or violations of public policies or laws by the governor or by any government official.”

Who can argue with that?

But, as we’ve said before, if this “investigation” is not just a political hit job to lay the groundwork for the governor’s impeachment when the opposition takes over the House next year — then the minority (future majority) bloc can do us all a favor by digging deeper into the history of CNMI government expenditures. They have to go all the way back to the first CNMI administration. The records may no longer be complete, but only a comprehensive study of how public funds were spent by each governor and his administration could point the way to real reforms.

But why stop at the executive branch? What about lawmakers and other elected officials? What about the judiciary and the independent agencies?

Are the House minority bloc members saying that this administration alone is capable of “abusing public funds” or “violating public policies or laws”?

If, moreover, the House minority bloc members believe that they are also the judges and the jurors in this controversy, and that “laws have been broken,” then what are they going to do about it?

For the sake of argument

THE administration wants to know if the House minority bloc will introduce or support revenue-generating bills now so that the government can fund what the House minority bloc say should be adequately funded like public education and healthcare, for example. The House minority bloc’s reply is that they introduced a revenue-generating measure a few years ago that would have imposed a new tax on the casino investor which, right now, can’t even pay its utility bills…like certain government agencies.

In any case, let’s say that an additional tax was imposed on the casino; and let’s also say that there were no unintended or unforeseen consequences to raising the cost of doing business — let’s suppose that the CNMI government did collect more revenue.

What do you think would have happened next?

Based on its actual historical record, the government would have spent more. There would have been more hiring of employees, more pay-raises, more programs, more services, more new obligations. The government today would have been in a much deeper financial hole.

Which brings us back to what should be the most pressing issue on Capital Hill today: how can the government generate more revenue to pay for its most urgent obligations?






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