Senate passes bill to place OMB under Department of Finance

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THE Senate on Friday unanimously passed a bill “to establish the Office of Management and Budget within the Department of Finance.”

Rep. Sheila J. Babauta appeared before the Senate to provide testimony in support of Senate Bill 21-33, which now goes to the House of Representatives.

“I was told that we are the only jurisdiction where the Office of Management and Budget is not combined with or under the Department of Finance, and so I think this would be a great time to pass this kind of legislation,” Babauta said.

She added, “This is a great time to merge departments given the economic situation that we are in. This will definitely cut costs for our CNMI government and also streamline communication processes, and ensure that all financial stakeholders within the executive branch are on the same page.”

Sen. Paul A. Manglona, however, raised concerns about the wages of OMB and Department of Finance employees following the proposed merger.

“If, for example, accountants at OMB are making more money than their counterparts at the Department of Finance, or vice versa, how would their salaries be affected when you combine the two agencies? Would you cut or raise one of their salaries? How does that work?” he asked.

“I just want to point this out. I hope that the end result will not cause salary adjustments all over the place. These are two big agencies that you are trying to combine at this moment when we are having this financial crisis.”

Vinnie Sablan

The author of the bill, acting Senate Floor Leader Vinnie Sablan, responded, “The structures upon passage of this bill will revert to the regulations under the Office of Personnel Management. Those changes will be in place once OMB is placed under the Department of Finance.”

He said under the bill, the secretary of Finance “shall put in place all of the requirements and regulations that are being provided by the department.”

All seven senators who were present voted for passage of the bill. Senate Floor Leader Justo Quitugua and Sen. Sixto Igisomar were excused from Friday’s session.

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