Judiciary asks lawmakers for reprogramming authority

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THE judicial branch of the government is asking lawmakers for full reprogramming authority “to make it easier for the judiciary to carry out its duties and responsibilities.”

CNMI Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro is making the request in light of the across-the-board reduction in fiscal year 2020 budget following decreased revenue projections due to a sharp decline in tourist arrivals subsequent to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In his letter to Senate President Victor B. Hocog and Speaker Jonathan Attao, the chief justice “respectfully requests for the same reprogramming authority that Public Law 21-2 granted to the governor, chief justice, director of the Legislative Bureau, mayors of Saipan, the Northern Islands, Tinian and Rota and the municipal councils of Rota, Tinian and Saipan and Northern Islands.”

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed P.L. 21-2 into law after implementing an all-encompassing cut in April last year, due to a 4.7% revenue shortfall in FY 2019.

In his letter, Chief Justice Castro attached a copy of proposed legislation for reprogramming authority.

He told Hocog and Attao that he cannot speak for the other two branches of the government, “but I am sure you agree with me that your approval of this request will make it easier for the judiciary to carry out its duties and responsibilities as we strive to address the reduction of the anticipated revenues and the corona virus.”

The proposed legislation that Castro attached to his letter has the same language as P.L. 21-2.

In accordance with the governor’s 28.3% across-the-board cut, the Office of Management and Budget “adjusted” the judiciary’s appropriation from $5.6 million to $4 million.

Wrong figure

In related news, Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider said he wants to set the record straight: senators do not get a $42,000 annual salary. He said senators and House members each get an annual salary of $32,000 only.

In its adjustments to the allotment spreadsheet, the Office of Management and Budget indicated that the total budget for the senators’ salaries is $385,996, which when divided by nine (the number of senators) is $42,888 per senator.

Variety was told that the $385,996 includes the pensions of senators who do not draw salaries. They are Sens. Justo Quitugua, Paul Manglona, and Frank Borja.

The amount budgeted for their salaries, which they choose not to receive so they can continue receiving their pension checks is supposed to go to the CNMI scholarship program, Manglona said.

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