Marianas Variety SAIPAN, CNMI (Oct. 22, 2010) -The ink on the new budget law was barely dry when the administration announced that cuts would have to be made. It turned out that the $132 million projection the legislators wrangled over for days was too optimistic.

This illustrates, once again, that the focus was misplaced during the budget "deliberations." There’s no money! That is the problem. And the solution is to cut costs and to pull this economy out of a dangerous downward spiral — not raise fees and taxes that will only further punish the private sector, this bloated and incompetent government’s main source of revenue.

The people are looking for evidence that their leaders understand the magnitude of this crisis and know how to offer solutions that protect the CNMI’s future and not just political careers. Sadly, their trust is again misplaced, as the sole source contracts with administration cronies amply demonstrates. Over US$700,000 will go to well-connected contractors. Moreover, as the administration readily admits, it can ignore the results of the federally funded desk audit of DCCA and DPS -- without even sending federal taxpayers a "thank you" note.

Regarding the ARRA contract, if the former Commerce secretary cannot live with his CNMI government salary, he should have taken that into consideration when he was offered the post. He should have declined it. A cabinet appointment is supposed to be the capstone of a long and distinguished career in public service. In the CNMI, however, loyalty to the governor, not competence or even ethics, is the only requirement to serve in his cabinet.

The Government Ethics Act of 1992, in any case, includes a "revolving door" provision that prohibits public officials from taking a position or contract for work in which the public official or employee "participated personally and substantially in the subject matter of the transaction during his term of public legal authority.

With respect to a contract, this prohibition shall be permanent as to that contract." This "revolving door" provision is integral to maintaining public trust. The governor’s attorney general may parse these words however he chooses, but the ARRA contract is in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the Government Ethics Act.

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