House Approves FY2013 National Budget Bill For Palau

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Nearly all cuts formerly made by Senate restored

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, May 21, 2013) – Palau’s House yesterday passed on second reading the Fiscal Year 2013 National Budget bill, wherein most of the cuts that the Senate made earlier were reinstated.

The bill was approved unanimously on second reading by 13 delegates present during the session. Excused from the session were Del. Swenny Ongidobel, Del. Masasinge Arurang and Floor Leader Mario Gulibert.

The House Committee on Ways and Means, which reviewed the bill, stated in its committee report that amendments to the budget bill were made after taking into consideration the actual amounts spent by various government agencies per the 2nd Quarter Financial Reports.

Furthermore, the House removed non-appropriation items in the bill and focused only on budgetary items. The committee stated that the purpose of the budget bill is to finish out the FY 2013 so they only entertained budgetary items. Non-appropriation items, according the committee, should best be entertained as separate bills or as part of the FY 2014 budget bill.

Non-appropriation items include proposed tax on wages and salary, imposition of import tax and reprogramming authority.

As to the reinstated cuts, the House version restored the original budget proposed by the president for his office, the Office of the Vice President, offices under Ministry of Finance (particularly adding 20,000 to Office of the Minister), Ministry of State (only reducing Office of the Minister to $25,000 from $49,000 by the president and $45,000 by Senate and adding the appropriation of $75,000 for Southwest Islands Field Trips), Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs (particularly adding $5,000 to Bureau of Arts and Culture), Office of the Attorney General, Bureau of Marine Law Enforcement, Bureau of Agriculture and Bureau of Labor and Human Resources.

For the Judicial Branch, the House increased their budget by $100,000.

In the Legislative Branch, the House maintained the budget cut for the Senate but rejected the cut for the House. The president proposed $1,808,000 for the House. The Senate cut it to $1,768,000. The House, in its version, increased it to $1,983,000. In addition, the House increased the budget for House Legal Counsel Office from $172,000 to $225,000. The proposed budget for Senate Legal Counsel Office is $172,000.

On State Block Grants, the House reinstated budgets for some states to the amount originally proposed by the president while some states got an increase. For instance, the original funding proposed for Aimeliik State was $270,000. The Senate increased it to $285,000. The House increased it further to $290,000.

Airai, Hatohobei, Kayangel, Koror, Melekeok, Ngaraard, Ngarchelong, Ngardmau, Ngaremlengui, Ngatpang, Ngchesar, Ngiwal and Sonsorol also got increased grants in the House version as compared to the proposed funding by the president and the Senate. For Angaur and Peleliu, the House restored what was originally proposed. Funding for Angaur and Peleliu was increased in the Senate version.

The House also increased budget for National Postal Service and Palau Visitors Authority as compared to the president’s version and the Senate version.

On education assistance, the House restored the cut made by the Senate to Palau Community College to the funding proposed by the president. Palau Mission Academy, whose proposed funding was increased by Senate to $100,000 from $60,000, was increased only to $80,000 by the House. Ibobang High School was increased from the original proposal of $80,000 to $100,000.

For the Health Care Fund Contribution, the House proposed the sum of $100,000. The president originally proposed the sum of $400,000 while the Senate proposed the sum of $250,000.

The budget bill is up for third reading in today’s session. After passing third reading, it will be transmitted back to the Senate for the upper chamber to decide whether to pass amendments by the House or reject it, which will lead to the creation of a conference committee to iron out both houses’ differences.

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