CNMI House Removes Proposed Hires From Budget

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Inos reportedly in agreement with lawmakers’ concerns

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 4, 2013) – The House Ways and Means Committee is removing the unfunded positions for 100 full-time equivalents (FTE) that the Northern Marianas administration wants included in fiscal year 2014 budget bill.

Ways and Means Chairman Tony P. Sablan, IR-Saipan, told Variety in an interview that they were able to convince Gov. Eloy S. Inos that bill should not have such a provision.

The committee said the administration’s proposal is tantamount to "reserving" 100 positions that may be filled in an election year.

But the main problem with the proposal, Sablan, said is the lack of funding. The administration also did not indicate which department and what particular governmental activities will have the FTE’s.

"We have to be mindful of the budget provision that requires positions to be identified within an activity — we can’t just have it in reserve somewhere," Sablan said.

He also noted that current law eliminates vacant positions that are not filled within 90 days upon enactment of the budget measure.

"I asked the governor to give us an idea of the need for 100 FTEs and I told him our concerns with the proposal," Sablan said. "And surprisingly, he said he agrees with us. So he told us that we can do whatever it is that we want with it and he basically agrees that the particular entry in the budget submission can be removed."

In its budget submission, the administration said "we have included for your consideration 100 full-time equivalents for the entire executive branch which may be filled upon the governor’s approval, provided that the FTE shall be restricted to positions that are essential to the delivery of public services. No FTE shall receive compensation in excess of the government salary ceiling set forth in 1 CMC Section 8248 as amended and as long as funding for the personnel expenditures of the executive branch does not exceed the appropriation level."

Because the House is always willing to cooperate with the administration in addressing the need for critical or essential positions, Sablan said they told the governor they can consider the proposal but only for 25 positions because 100 FTEs is just too many.

He said he finds no reason for the Legislature not to quickly approve any additional position that the governor considers urgent and critical in the future.

"The Legislature is working with the administration in regards to getting our government expenditure in order. As long as we are trying to jump start and maintain the recent improvements in the economy, I don’t see why we can’t work on the particular issue when the need arises," he said.

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