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Senate may hold emergency session to pass FY 2021 budget 

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WITH only five days left in the fiscal year, the Senate may hold an emergency session on Saturday to act on FY 2021 budget, which also has to be approved by the House of Representatives and reviewed by the governor before he acts on it.

The governor submitted his budget proposal to the Legislature in April and his revised proposal in July.

Without a new and balanced budget before Oct. 1, 2020, there will be a partial government shutdown.

On Thursday, the Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee chaired by Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider convened and then went on recess to hold a closed-door meeting. The committee will meet again at 10 a.m. today, Friday, to endorse the Senate version of House Bill 21-124 or the FY 2021 appropriation measure.

For the past two weeks, the House had been waiting for the Senate version. On Tuesday, the House adopted the Senate version of House Concurrent Resolution 21-2, which suspended additional earmarks and raised the budget ceiling to $96.4 million from $82.6 million.

The Senate committee proposes to allot to the Public School System, local Medicaid and the municipalities of Tinian and Rota a big portion of the additional $13.8 million derived from the suspended earmarks.

The Senate version also includes a provision, which states that whenever Finance determines the FY 2021 revenue will decrease by $200,000 or more than 3% of the projection, the Finance secretary “shall impose budget cuts on all departments, agencies and instrumentalities.”

The Senate at the same time wants to give the governor “unlimited” reprogramming authority “solely within the executive branch, but not including the legislative branch, the judicial branch and autonomous agencies.”

If the House finds the Senate version unacceptable, they will have to convene a bicameral conference committee to iron out their differences.

In an interview on Thursday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ivan Blanco said, “We look forward to see the product from Senate and we are prepared to go over it.”

He added, “We are happy to sit down with the senators. If we have to compromise, we are ready. Everybody is eager to have a new fiscal year budget by Oct. 1.”

 

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