THE Torres-Palacios administration on Thursday submitted its fiscal year 2022 budget proposal to the CNMI Legislature as required by the Constitution. FY 2022 begins on Oct. 1, 2021.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the budget measure includes funds from the American Rescue Plan which presents a lot of funding opportunities for almost every department and agency.

“I know that in the American Rescue Plan, there’s a lot of breakdown of funds so we’ve been working extremely hard in trying to look into specific sections in collaboration and consultation with the Office of the Attorney General,” the governor said.

He said it was recommended that they look at local revenue and what spending items will be supplemented by the ARP.

Secretary of Finance David Atalig said  they looked at allocations for the ARP and how it will assist the CNMI in bringing back furloughed employees,  ending the austerity program that has been in place for the last couple of years, as well as releasing the third stimulus funds.

The FY 2022 budget is pretty much the same level of general revenues as the previous fiscal year, he said.

“Keep in mind that we’re still in the pandemic. We do have the support of our federal partners and federal government with funds coming in, like for PUA, stimulus, and also the American Rescue Plan helping out our territory,” he said.

 “In terms of general revenue with the projected terms of general fund revenues, we expect revenues to be the same due to our tourism industry not being back up yet. This is more or less just our local economy, local residents here and there, returning residents visiting or coming back and contributing to our economy. We don’t expect a jump in our numbers, and so therefore, we continue to operate at the same levels,” he said.

As in FY 2021, the FY 2020’s projected budget amount is $144.4 million, with roughly $44 million  for debt payments and  $4.5 million for the Department of Public Lands which leaves about $96 million for appropriation.

“In our budget submission to the Legislature, we identify ARP funds that will assist in the payments or the initial monies we need to supplement the current general fund for personnel and all others,” Atalig said.

He reiterated that the ARP is intended to supplement the local budget, so that furloughed employees can be recalled, the austerity program can be canceled, and the CNMI can attain some normalcy.

“As our government employees  receive their full paychecks, we hope that they can contribute more to the economy,” Atalig said.

He added that the budget package includes an expenditure plan that includes how much of the ARP will be used to help supplement the personnel budgets.

“We hope that [lawmakers] review and see where we’re coming from. I do expect that [lawmakers] will have their opinions on where and how the funds will be allocated, and that is all up for their review of the budget,” he said.

The CNMI Legislature has until Sep. 30, 2021 to pass a balanced FY 2022 budget to prevent a partial government shutdown.

Reporter

K-Andrea is a Gates Millennium Scholar who earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. Since joining the MV team in Feb. 2020, she has been covering the political, environmental, and community beats.

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