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Governor submits $258.1M budget

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres is proposing a budget of $258.1 million for fiscal year 2019 — an increase of $21.4 million compared to the fiscal year 2018 budget which amounts to $236.7 million.

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Torres submitted the proposed budget to the Legislature on Sunday, meeting a mandate under the law, which requires the governor to submit a budget proposal by April 1. 

FY 2019 will start on Oct. 1, 2018 and will end on Sept. 30, 2019.

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For FY2019, the governor  projected a total revenue of $258,137,107 from business gross revenue taxes, income taxes, excise taxes, hotel occupancy taxes and bar and beautification taxes.

The available budget for appropriation after all obligations and debts are deducted will be $167,039,224. 

“I submitted a budget that builds upon the progress of the last couple of years,” Torres said in a statement. “My budget makes critical investments in key areas, while ensuring that we continue to fully address our government’s longstanding obligations in a fiscally sustainable manner.”

He added that the budget “supports the needs of our growing and thriving population and projects revenues for this next year increasing by about $21.4 million.”

 The proposed budget, the governor said, “is part of the overall step toward a future that expands opportunity for everyone who calls these islands home.”

While the proposed budget may not be perfect, Torres said “we are cognizant of the several challenges that lie ahead. But we look forward to working with the Legislature on a budget that will not only strike a fair balance for all of our government agencies, but also to address the critical needs of our community.”

Among the highlights of the budget proposal:

• $42,775,117, for  Public School System, an increase of about $6.2 million from last fiscal year and more than 25 percent of the budget available for appropriation

• $18,685,724 for the First and Second Senatorial Districts

• $11,019,340 for the retirees’ Group Health and Life Insurance

• $5,515,299 for Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation

• $4,892,553 for Northern Marianas College

• $4,640,200, for Medicaid matching funds

• $3,058,094, for  Third Senatorial District community programs

• $1,153,202, for Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority’s implementation of  a transit system

• $978,505, for the Department of Corrections to fully fund inmate meals

• $799,319, for Substance Abuse & Rehabilitation Program

• $450,000, for mold remediation at the judicial building

• $340,000, for the Emergency Operations Center’s acquisition of a web EOC software

• $322,167, for medical referral office’s hiring of utilization reviewers

• $200,000, for the Department of Labor’s supplement of the summer job program

• $177,000 for Joeten-Kiyu Public Library expansion.

Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said the $1.1 million allocated to COTA is for the acquisition of four transit buses and the hiring of 15 transit bus drivers.

He said the first transit route will be launched on April 9, 2018, between the Garapan district and  Northern Marianas College. Additional routes will be implemented this year upon arrival of the transit buses procured through the Federal Transit Authority programs. 

“This program is a critical component of our efforts to encourage greater participation of our residents in the labor force,” Bautista said. 

“Consistently we witness potential employees unable to assume full-time positions in our economy due to the inability to find consistent transportation to their place of employment. More broadly, this program will aid in encouraging the community to utilize the transit system to help save energy and promote a clean environment,” he added.

Bautista said the budget also emphasized the mandate for all government corporations to remit the payment of the outstanding 1 percent of the public auditor’s fee from prior fiscal years for U.S. workforce training.

He said all payments received from the secretary of Finance from outstanding Office of Public Auditor fees from prior fiscal years by a government corporation “shall be deposited into the Commonwealth Treasury for the purpose of providing apprenticeship programs to students of the Northern Mariana Islands seeking job placements in the public and private sectors throughout the commonwealth under the general direction of the Department of Labor.”

Rep. Angel Demapan, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said the panel will now begin reviewing the details of the proposed budget.

“Nonetheless, the continued upward growth of the commonwealth’s finances reflects how much we have progressed after decades of mounting government debt,” Demapan said in a statement. “We have since paid over $116 million for outstanding obligations in land compensation, judgments, retirees’ benefits, and funding for PSS and CHCC.”

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/103392-governor-submits-258-1m-budget

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