Marianas Variety

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    Tuesday, May 21, 2019-5:40:06A.M.






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Editorials 2019-February-22


THAT the government overspends is not news to anyone who can still recall some of the news stories from the past. The constitutional amendment that requires an annual balanced budget was ratified in 2009 by voters unhappy with the annual budget deficits.

A government budget, first of all, is based on revenue projections. Those projections may or may not be realized depending on what will actually happen in a given fiscal year. In the CNMI’s case, the annual budget includes allotments for medical referrals, the exact amount of which cannot be known until the need for referrals arises. The same goes for expenses that involve public safety and unforeseen emergencies requiring personnel OT.

Clearly, the only way to “control” these expenses is to impose limits on medical referrals and the government’s ability to respond to natural disasters.

Good luck with that.

In Aug. 2016, Variety reported that financial analysts from the U.S. gave the CNMI government a poor rating when it came to its finances in 2014. Of course, similar reports in the past had the same findings. But at least one elected official, former Rep. Ray Tebuteb, was honest enough to admit that “the government tends to overspend because of politics.” To get elected, politicians must promise to improve the lives of voters — or at least not to make them worse. You cannot possibly run on a platform that vows to limit spending on medical referrals, scholarships, public safety, disaster response, etc. You cannot possibly say no to all funding requests for community events, activities and programs that many people (voters) expect their government to finance. You can try, of course, especially if you’re no longer seeking re-election.

In any case, we should save some of our “outrage” for the succeeding years’ news stories about how the government has — surprise! — spent more than it should once again.

As for the elected officials who believe in fiscal discipline — i.e. real budget cuts — please introduce the required legislation which has to be specific.  How many government employees will be laid off? What are the agencies or offices that will have to be downsized or shut down? What are the programs or services that will receive less funding? Whose salaries will be reduced? What taxes and fees should be raised and by how much?

Enough complaining already. Do something.

The real problem

AMID all these talks about overspending and austerity, the governor has signed into law a bill that basically creates a new government entity. NMTI must now be funded by a government that is, once again, having financial problems mainly because of a slowdown in economic activity.

But who can possibly oppose the expansion of a local workforce which is NMTI’s goal? The AG mentioned some legal concerns about the bill, but lawmakers overwhelmingly passed it anyway.

As in previous years, these and other current issues will soon be forgotten, again — only to flare up, again in the near future.

What should actually concern all of us now is the state of the local economy, and if there are ways it can be improved to prevent a return of the pension crisis, payless paydays, pay-cuts, work-hour cuts, rolling power outages, the exodus of local residents, among other dreadful things.