Lawmakers ask governor to exempt federally paid employees from austerity cuts

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

MEMBERS of the House Committee on Federal & Foreign Affairs on Thursday asked Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to exempt federally paid programs from across-the-board budget cuts.

The governor issued Directive 2020-002 last month, stating that it “shall be observed by all locally funded and federally funded government employees both civil service and exempted service under the Executive Branch.”

Chaired by Rep. Luis John Castro, the House Committee on Federal & Foreign Affairs met on Monday to discuss, among other things, the governor’s across-the-board-cut directive.

The members agreed that federally funded employees should be spared from the austerity cuts.

In a joint letter to the governor, they said: “We understand that we are bracing for tough economic times ahead as a result of projected revenue shortfalls due to novel coronavirus outbreak. We are also gravely concerned that a decision to cut federally funded salaries and services will only deepen our economic crisis and be detrimental to the Commonwealth in the long run.”

They said “such cuts would cause immediate and unnecessary disruption to government operations and services, including public health and safety programs, infrastructure development, environmental protection, and social safety nets that assist the most vulnerable members of our community. Cuts to federally funded personnel and programs might also place the Commonwealth government in danger of losing federal funds altogether and the ability to reapply for federal funding in the future.”

They said federal programs are spread out in the CNMI government, both in the central and autonomous agencies.

The potential cuts, the lawmakers said, affect not only those employees and their office operations; “they will also greatly affect how efficient the school system operates and how the infrastructure gets improved, and more importantly, the opportunity for the Commonwealth to advance forward in a period of change and modernization.”

According to the lawmakers, “We feel collectively that other means can be entertained to address the shortfalls we will be experiencing or are experiencing now. As elected officials but as citizens more importantly, we acknowledge that hard decisions must be made to address the shortfalls we are experiencing now and that we anticipate in the months to come. Sacrifice must be made, but we must do so in a way that does not jeopardize essential functions and services that are made possible through federal funding,”

The committee members said the administration should “take all necessary steps to retain every federal dollar” in the Commonwealth.

“In these fiscally challenging times, we need these federal funds to continue flowing into our economy,” they added.

Aside from Castro, the other members of the committee who signed the letter were Reps. Joseph Leepan Guerrero, Ivan Blanco, Tina Sablan, Ralph Yumul, Joel Camacho, and Richard Lizama.

Read more articles