Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 19 Sep 2019 12am

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    Wednesday, September 18, 2019-5:21:47A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Judiciary wants lump-sum budget and reprogramming authority

FOR fiscal year 2020, the judiciary is asking for an $11.3 million budget that it wants to receive in lump sum.

It is also seeking independent reprogramming authority over its budget.

The administration, however, proposes only $5.79 million for the judiciary.

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From left, Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio, Rep. Tina Sablan, Rep. Sheila Babauta, Vice Speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero, CNMI Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro Castro, NMI Bar Association president Vince Seman, Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Naraja, and Sonia Camacho, director of courts, pose for a photo in the House chamber on  Thursday after a budget hearing conducted by the House Ways & Means Committee.  Photo by Bryan Manabat

At the House Ways and Means Committee budget hearing on Thursday, Chief Justice Alexandro Castro, Presiding Judge Roberto Naraja and other judiciary officials urged lawmakers to at least retain the $6.7 million appropriated for judicial operations and services in FY 2019.

The judiciary said it needs two more employees: a specialty court coordinator and a Drug Court compliance officer.

In addition, Chief Justice Castro said the judiciary should be given the flexibility to restructure its budget as it sees fit.

“I need a provision in the budget act that will allow me to ‘move’ funding for pressing urgent matters,” the chief justice added.

Ways and Means Chairman Ivan Blanco, in a separate interview, said his committee wants to further discuss the chief justice’s request.

“We want to find out why it was instituted in the first place,” he added, referring to the reprogramming restriction.

“Perhaps this is something that we can entertain with the austerity measures being implemented by the administration,” he said.

As for the lump-sum budget request, Blanco said when funding availability was not an issue, lump sums were given to each government entity.

He said the monthly allocations for government entities are in place due to cash-flow issues. “A monthly allocation is also a way to prevent overruns. I think [it] is a good financial management practice.”

Blanco said the House may act on the FY 2020 budget by mid-June and transmit it to the Senate.

A new and balanced budget must be enacted into law before Oct. 1, 2019. Otherwise there will be a partial government shutdown.