CNMI GOVERNMENT PREPARES FOR SHUTDOWN

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No payroll unless budget approved by October 1

By Emmanuel T. Erediano SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 21, 2010) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), the administration has prepared its contingency plan in case the Legislature fails to pass a balanced budget for fiscal year 2011.

The House-Senate conference committee has nine days to come up with a budget bill acceptable to both chambers.

Without a new balanced budget on Oct. 1, the government will shut down except for its essential services. The lawmakers’ salaries will also be suspended.

[PIR editor’s note: In a separate report, it states that "the government must raise US$12.6 million to provide the additional funding needed by the Public School System, the Retirement Fund and the government payroll" to prevent government shutdown.]

In an interview yesterday, Press Secretary Angel A. Demapan said they had already identified the essential government agencies that will continue to operate despite the shutdown.

The memorandum regarding the essential services will be issued any time this week, he said.

Demapan said the administration is not going to sit around and wait until the last minute before it informs government employees about the contingency plan.

Variety learned that the essential agencies include those that were exempted from previous payless paydays: Public Health, Public Safety, Corrections, the school system, Northern Marianas College and federally funded positions.

House Bill 17-91, which House Minority Leader Diego T. Benavente, R-Saipan, introduced will give the governor full authority to designate essential personnel in 10 government services that must continue to operate during the shutdown.

But this bill remains pending in the House.

Demapan said without such legislation, the governor has to make his own list of essential services.

This is also based on a legal opinion of the Attorney General’s Office.

The members of the conference committee yesterday continued to work on the budget in the Senate chamber. None of the members wanted to make any comment.

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