Bill to establish new executive department fails to get enough votes

THE Senate bill that would create a Department of Revenue and Taxation failed to get the required 15 votes in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Eleven House members supported Senate Bill 20-1, which was introduced by Senate President Arnold Palacios, but six were against it.

Those who voted no were Vice Speaker Janet Maratita, Reps. Alice Igitol, Ivan Blanco, Larry Deleon Guerrero, Ed Propst and Edmund Villagomez.

According to the CNMI Constitution, “Any appropriation bill, or any bill affecting spending authority, government financial management, or organization of the government, enacted in the period between a regular general election and the second Monday of January of the following year shall be void unless enacted by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each house of the Legislature.�

Blanco, chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary & Governmental Operations, said the bill still needs a lot of work. It has several issues and unclarified provisions, he added.

He said it should be reintroduced in the next Legislature so it can “fix the issues.�

In an interview, Blanco said he wanted to know if creating a new department would exceed the cap on the number of executive departments, which is 15,

He said there is also a need for specific language stating that Customs will be transferred to the new Department of Revenue and Taxation.

Vice Speaker Maratita echoed Blanco’s concerns, saying that if a new department is to be created, funding must be identified for its operations.

Rep. Larry Deleon Guerrero said he voted no because “no one could answer a simple question: whether creating another department would exceed the constitutional limit.�

He noted that Blanco also enumerated other concerns that need to be addressed.

“Let’s face it,â€� Deleon Guerrero said, “our sister island of Guam is coping with a major tax collection deficiency even though it has a Department of Revenue and Taxation. The FY 2018 budget sets aside $1.6 million to hire more personnel, including tax attorneys, and invest in new technology.  I believe we need to learn more from our neighboring island how to collect some $200 million in taxes.â€�

Rep. John Paul Sablan, for his part, said they should act on the bill so that the new department can improve the collection of taxes.

He said the new department will focus on tax collections and go after tax evaders.

Customs Director Jose Mafnas, who supported the bill, said he was disappointed that it did not pass the House.

“I guarantee that this [new department] will double the collections…. I know that this is not a perfect bill but if they passed it we can start addressing  revenue leakages. We need to be more aggressive and stricter in our tax collections and enforcement,â€� he added.

Currently, Customs and Revenue and Taxation are divisions of the Department of Finance.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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