CNMI Senate Panel Completes Draft Of 2014 Budget

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Some funds restored for Public Lands, Rota mayor’s office

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, August 20, 2013) – The Northern Marianas Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee yesterday completed the draft of its own version of the $123 million fiscal year 2014 budget that the full Senate is expected to pass in tomorrow’s session.

Chaired by Sen. Jovita M. Taimanao, Ind.-Rota, the committee restored some funds that the House removed from the budget of the Department of Public Lands (DPL) and the Rota mayor’s office.

Those in the meeting aside from Taimanao were Senate Floor Leader Ray N. Yumul, IR-Saipan; Sen. Pete P. Reyes, R-Saipan; Sen. Frank Q. Cruz, R-Tinian; Sen. Francisco M. Borja, IR-Tinian; and Sen. Joaquin H. Borja, R-Tinian.

In an interview after the meeting, Taimanao said it was the third day of her committee’s work session on House Bill 18-98 or the FY ’14 appropriation measure. She said they will finalize the Senate draft budget bill today so they can act on it tomorrow.

She said that at the meeting, the committee agreed to acknowledge appropriation for essential services as well as the priorities "based on the needs" of each department and government agency.

Taimanao said her committee gave DPL back the $2 million that the House deducted from the department’s $5.2 million budget proposal because the submission had not specifically said where exactly the money would go. DPL’s budget submission simply said the $2 million was for "all others."

However, in a meeting with fiscal affairs committee last week, DPL Secretary Pete A. Tenorio explained that the $2 million was for the homestead infrastructure development on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

The Fiscal Affairs Committee also restored $290,000 that the House took from the Rota mayor’s utility budget. During its session on July 21, the House approved Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb’s floor amendment deducting $290,000 from the Rota mayor’s $671, 241 for utilities. It was the amount that Rota owed the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation.

Taimanao said her committee worked diligently to finalize the Senate version of the FY ’14 budget.

In a separate interview, Cruz said he agrees with Taimanao that the $2 million should be given back to DPL. That money, he said, is for homestead development that many applicants from Tinian and Rota have been waiting for.

He said the homestead applicants were already issued lot numbers but the land was still not made available. The longer DPL waits to develop the homestead lots, the higher the price of the construction materials.

Even now, there are many people who can hardly afford to buy construction materials, Cruz said.

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