CNMI ASKS U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR $140 MILLION BAILOUT

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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 20) – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has finally "cried uncle."

Uncle Sam, that is.

Washington Rep. Pedro A. Tenorio is asking the federal government for as much as $140 million in an economic bailout package.

Tenorio acknowledged that it may be difficult to get such a huge amount at this time from the U.S. given its own financial situation, but "it is still worth trying."

"I hope that no one expects to get all of this," he said. "We will be lucky if we get some assistance. Congress is trying to reduce federal spending and is proposing cutbacks in many federal programs. But I am going to try and get every penny I can," he said.

During his weekly press briefing on Friday, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial announced that his administration has already identified areas where the federal government’s financial assistance can be tapped.

Tenorio, in a statement, said the CNMI’s official economic bailout request to the U.S. Congress amounts to $140 million for fiscal year 2007.

The request was submitted to five different U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittees which detailed estimated costs needed to repair the 18 different public schools in the Northern Marianas, a subsidy for fuel expenses of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., funds for the construction of landfills on Rota and Tinian and the reconstruction of Tinian harbor, among other proposed projects.

"I have been working closely with Governor Fitial, Tony Muna from (the Office of Management and Budget) and CNMI Finance Secretary Eloy Inos to compile the list of greatest needs for the commonwealth," said Tenorio in a statement.

"Normally, only members of Congress are allowed to submit appropriations requests to the subcommittees but I felt that under the circumstances with our economy in such bad shape, I had to do this," he added.

The CNMI’s representative to the nation’s capital said the request included the following: $35 million for operations at the Departments of Public Health, Public Safety and Corrections; $5 million for operations of the Public School System; $2.3 million to operate the new prison facility; $17.5 million for CUC’s fuel expenses; $4 million for repairs and equipment replacement at the island’s only hospital; $5.635 million for repairs of public schools; $25.5 million for the reconstruction of the Tinian Harbor; $16.2 million to reconfigure the Rota Harbor; and $2.3 million to continue work on the Kagman watershed project.

March 20, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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