Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 22 Sep 2018 12am

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    Friday, September 21, 2018-2:33:45P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Governor joins budget committee meeting

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres on Friday participated in the first meeting of the House-Senate conference committee that will draft a compromise version of the fiscal year 2019 budget bill.

The conference committee was created after the House rejected the Senate version of the budget bill last week.

Without a new balanced budget on Oct. 1, 2018, there will be a partial government shutdown. The governor submitted his budget proposal to the Legislature on April 1, 2018.

Ralph Torres

Torres sat down with the conferees on Friday morning to discuss funding for the typhoon recovery efforts.

Prior to the conference committee meeting, Torres and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Angel Demapan, held a press conference to discuss the government’s recovery efforts on Rota, Tinian and Saipan.

The governor said he has been communicating with the Marianas Public Land Trust to find additional funds, especially for Rota which was hit by Typhoon Mangkhut on Monday last week.

 “That will be a very big topic in our budget conference meetings, Demapan said. “We anticipate that there is going to be a significant increase in the budget for Rota for purposes of meeting the new needs. Should the governor and our federal partners complete the process involving the federal disaster declaration, that will trigger a need for some kind of local funding match and that is something that we need to prepare for. So aside from providing additional resources locally to augment those anticipated funds from our federal partners, we also have to be prepared for the matching requirement.”

The governor said  “this is a long process.”

For example, he added, the Kanat Tabla project “is more than five years already, but federal funding has just been approved recently…. Additional funding from MPLT will safeguard…the funds for the FY 2019 budget itself so we don’t hamper the budget process…. It’s important to make requests from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] but nothing is free so we have make sure that what we request is really needed by our community.”

Demapan said the Commonwealth has learned its lesson from Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 when it comes to requesting for federal assistance.

“That’s how we’ve been able to accelerate the rate of recovery on Rota and throughout the Commonwealth. We are more prepared. We are still in the process of securing funding for projects that are Soudelor-related and require local matching funds. But now we are getting ahead. We will make sure that when the federal money is ready, the local matching funds are also ready,” Demapan said.

Variety learned that the bicameral conference committee also met on Saturday and Sunday.