$169 MILLION BUDGET GETS FIRST OK IN MARIANAS

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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 7) –The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) House of Representatives has passed the fiscal year 2008 budget bill, which now heads to the Senate.

The House version amounts to $168.7 million and it was passed by a 14-2 vote on Saturday.

According to the CNMI Constitution, an appropriation bill cannot be enacted between a regular general election and the second Monday of January of the following year unless passed by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each house of the Legislature.

At least 14 of the 18 House members and seven of the nine senators have to vote for the passage of the budget bill before it can reach the governor.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a session today.

On Saturday, outgoing Reps. Cinta M. Kaipat, Covenant-Saipan, and Absalon Waki, Covenant-Saipan, were the only members who voted against the budget bill’s passage.

Rep. Crispin M. Ogo, Covenant-Rota, was absent.

The proposed budget is $8 million higher than the governor’s proposal of $160.1 million.

The bill will give the legislative branch $9 million, or $2.6 million higher than its current appropriation of $6.4 million .

The judicial branch will get $4.9 million; the executive branch, $81.2 million; the Washington representative, $953,857; Rota, $8.2 million; and Tinian, $8.2 million.

The Public School System will get the biggest appropriation — $38.7 million. (See related stories on pages 2 and 4)

The House rejected the governor’s proposal of an additional $2 million for the Marianas Visitors Authority, while providing Northern Marianas College with a budget of $5.8 million.

The Saipan and Northern Island mayors and municipal council will get $2.1 million; boards and commissions, $672,046; independent programs, $1.3 million; and other programs, $1.1 million.

The governor’s financial consultant, Tony Muna, said the House action indicates that the Legislature is not willing to share the "hurt."

"This is everybody’s government and everybody should sacrifice," Muna said.

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