27 Feb 2013
- By Emmanuel T. Erediano - firstname.lastname@example.org - Variety News Staff
GOVERNOR Eloy S. Inos and the Legislature yesterday agreed to make significant cuts in government spending, but did not provide details.
Inos and the lawmakers met in the governor’s conference room to discuss the government’s dismal fiscal condition.
In separate interviews after the meeting, Inos and Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, IR-Saipan, said they agreed to work together to find ways to cut costs and generate revenue.
Inos said everybody has to be mindful of the possible reductions in federal funds due to the sequestration that will kick in on March 1 if the U.S. Congress fails to prevent it.
He added that the budget for the next fiscal year is going to be a challenge.
The $114 million budget he will propose, Inos said, will have to be distributed among a “wide range of government agencies” to cushion possible cuts in federal grants.
“We will have to watch that closely,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security, for example, is going to sustain a 9 percent cut if sequestration happens. DHS is one of the CNMI’s grantors.
Inos said he and lawmakers will form a committee tasked with developing revenue-generating measures.
“We are going to come up with ideas to raise the revenue. We are not looking at increasing tax rates. We definitely understand the economics of that. So we are going to be looking at ways to grow the economy. That would be the best way and that is why we have to pay attention to our tourism industry,” he said.
Inos said he plans to regularly meet with lawmakers, but added: “there is no sense in meeting and meeting when there is no action. So we want everybody to go back working on the issues, come back and report and hopefully try to get things done.”
During the meeting, they discussed economic revitalization, revenue generation, tourism, the Retirement Fund, the utilities situation, the hospital and the Public School System.
Deleon Guerrerero said the House, the Senate and the administration will each appoint members to the cost-cutting and revenue-generating committees.
“We will be looking for ways to cut costs. We will also be looking for ways to generate revenue. There are a lot of proposals that are not new, but we will be revisiting them to see which ones are going to be supported by all so we can move forward to implement them,” he said.
“Everybody was clear that time is not on our side, and that we have a very short time to act,” he said
Deleon Guerrero noted that yesterday’s leadership meeting was very different from the “summits” that then-Gov. Benigno R. Fitial held with the 17th Legislature.
Policy recommendations came only from Fitial, the speaker noted. Now, Deleon Guerrero said, lawmakers are making their own recommendations as well.
Inos said his administration and the Legislature wanted U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan to join them in the meeting, but Kilili had to return to the nation’s capital.
“We all met with him separately to discuss how we can work together in sorting out the many issues that he will be pursuing. We will lend our full support to his efforts in Washington D.C,” he said.
“It think it is important that we show this spirit of working together — the House, the Senate the executive branch and our delegate to Washington D.C.”