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Last updateSat, 19 Oct 2019 12am







    Friday, October 18, 2019-10:06:03A.M.






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House panel readies FY 2020 budget bill

THE House Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday completed the draft fiscal year 2020 budget bill.

The bill reflects the Senate version which increases the projected amount available for appropriation by $1.7 million.

In his April 4, 2019 budget submission, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres identified $233.2 million in projected gross revenue for the next fiscal year. Of this amount, he said $147.1 million will be available for appropriation.

In its concurrent resolution, the House followed the governor’s numbers. But the Senate last week amended the resolution to raise the amount available for appropriation to $148.8 million.

The Senate added $3.15 million in amusement machine license fees for Tinian and Saipan, and $138,249 in Public School System technical education funds. The Department of Finance told the senators that both items “were inadvertently excluded from the list of earmarked funds.”

The Senate also crossed out the $3.58 million in tobacco control and $1.46 million in cancer funds from the list of identified budgetary resources, heeding the governor’s recommendation to suspend them.

On Tuesday, the House Ways & Means Committee took into account the changes made by the Senate to the concurrent resolution, and reallocated some funds to the Public School System, Northern Marianas College and the Commonwealth Cannabis Commission.

For PSS, the governor proposed $36.46 million which was increased to $36.89 million. The Board of Education budget was increased to $322,837 from $318,448; and NMC to $5.78 million from $5 million. The cannabis commission will get $580,038.

In an interview after the committee meeting, Ways & Means Chairman Ivan A. Blanco said they “plugged the holes” to ensure that there is fair distribution of whatever funding is available.

“After all the budget hearings that we had with the judiciary, the Office of the Management & Budget, Finance, other department heads, PSS and NMC, we have to listen and consider their needs,” Blanco said.

Rep. Roman Benavente, who chairs the House Education Committee, said they increased the allocations for PSS and NMC because “we recognize the need to keep the kids in school.”

Blanco said he is hoping that the House can pass the FY 2020 budget bill on or before June 28.

FY 2020 starts on Oct. 1, 2019. Failure to pass a new and balanced budget before that date will result in a partial government shutdown.