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    Tuesday, September 25, 2018-9:36:26P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Rep. Roman Benavente wants PSS, NMC to get higher budgets

HOUSE Education Committee Chairman Roman C. Benavente does not support the administration’s proposed budget for the Public School System or for Northern Marianas College, saying he will “fight” for additional education funding once the deliberations on the fiscal year 2015 appropriation measure begin.

In an interview yesterday, Benavente, IR-Saipan, said the budget that PSS and NMC have been receiving over the last five fiscal years no longer meets the needs of the increasing numbers of students.

Roman Benavente
In his FY 2015 budget submission, Gov. Eloy S. Inos proposed $32.3 million for PSS which received $32.1 million in the current fiscal year.

For NMC, the governor proposed $3.9 million. NMC got $4.1 million in FY 2014.

A former Board of Education chairman, Benavente said the governor’s proposal for the PSS and NMC budgets is much lower than what the two autonomous agencies have requested.

PSS said it needs $40 million while NMC asked for $7.8 million.

Benavente believes that funding for some executive branch agencies can be cut in order to provide education with the “right” amount of funding.

He did not mention which agencies but he said he understands that the administration and the Legislature cannot give everybody the amount they ask for due to the government’s scarce resources.

“But I still do not agree that we should short-change PSS and NMC.”

He said politicians always claim that education is their top priority. But once budget deliberations come, “we lose sight of that.”

“So we have to start really putting the money where our mouth is,” he added.

He said if PSS won’t get the $40 million it requested, the Legislature should at least appropriate an amount higher than the governor’s proposal. The same goes for NMC, he added.

Benavente said last week, Saipan Southern High School ran out of supplies such as toilet paper. He said he had to tap his discretionary funds to provide the school with four boxes of toilet paper. Each box had 90 rolls.

He said although PSS receives federal funds, these are awarded for specific uses.

Late last year, Benavente introduced House Legislative Initiative 18-12 which will increase to 25 percent of the general revenues of the commonwealth the guaranteed annual budget of PSS. The current rate is 15 percent.

A legislative initiative must be passed by three-fourths of the members of each house voting and present. It does not need the governor’s approval, but it must be ratified by voters.