Best of luck

THE new Legislature will face many old problems that previous lawmakers, in previous election years, had promised to solve or at least to “address.”

These include funding for PSS, CHCC, medical referrals and the court-mandated payments to the Settlement Fund. Also on the list: government payroll, tax refunds, scholarships, land compensation, other judgments, payments owed to vendors, including CUC.

Now everyone and his uncle say they “support” PSS — they are for “quality education,” and they are in solidarity with the teachers, and they think of “the children” and the “future” all the time. We hear that a lot, even in a non-election year.

In the spring of 2019, PSS requested, for FY 2020, a $66 million budget from the central government whose emergency expenses had increased even as its revenue collection was plummeting following the twin disasters of Mangkhut and Yutu. Then Covid-19 happened.

For FY 2021, if projections hold, PSS is supposed to receive $24.1 million only. The government’s budget? $101 million and that includes DPL’s $4.5 million. (The $41 million for the Settlement Fund has been set aside already.)

Can the new Legislature, packed, once again, with staunchly pro-education, devoutly pro-children lawmakers, guarantee additional funding for PSS? And we’re not talking about $500,000 or a million or two — but the funding that PSS and the BOE say the school system and its administrators, teachers and students truly need.

Let’s see: $101 million minus $66 million equals $35 million. That amount minus DPL’s $4.5 million is equal to $30.5 million.

PSS problem solved! Great. What about NMC? NMTI? The scholarship programs?  We’re talking about education only. There’s also healthcare — subsidies for CHCC, its utility payments, funding for medical referrals, the need for more doctors, specialists, nurses other healthcare personnel, the local Medicaid program, the health centers on Tinian and Rota, their healthcare needs, etc., etc.

But what about DPS? Corrections? The judiciary which wants to spend $7 million to renovate a building it cannot afford to maintain?

What about the rest of the government departments, agencies, programs, services, activities, obligations?

How exactly can the CNMI pay for all these goodies?

And if you’re a lawmaker, newly elected or re-elected, you should be aware by now of the many other forms of help and assistance that your constituents will ask (if not demand) from you.

No wonder some lawmakers prefer what the uncharitable would call “theatrics” — oversight hearings, summoning and swearing in witnesses, speechifying. It is so much better, and  more politically convenient, to endlessly talk about problems and find someone to blame for them. Governance is for chumps.

Of course

SOME will continue to insist that if only the government was spending public funds wisely and responsibly, then there would not have been a deficit. But how can the government spend wisely and responsibly when it is expected to be the main employer of voters and the main provider of everything else that is near and dear to their hearts: K-12-college education, healthcare including medical referrals, emergency response and assistance, public works, utilities, government contracts, etc., etc.?

Was there ever a time when the government wasn’t accused — by whichever the opposition party was — of mismanagement, misspending, etc., etc.? But thanks to our ignorance of history and/or selective memory, unwillingness to use a calculator and economic illiteracy, we will continue to compare unfavorably the lamentable reality of an imperfect government run by imperfect humans to a nonexistent perfect government run by nonexistent perfect humans.

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