Budget magic

THROUGHOUT CNMI history, the complaint about giving the governor 100%  reprogramming authority is usually heard from his political opponents — whose tune is likely to change if it’s their governor who’s in charge.

In any case, reprogramming authority is granted to the governor because many lawmakers, especially in an election year, do not want to make tough decisions whose likely end result is widespread unhappiness among the registered voters/employees of the CNMI’s oldest and primary “industry,” which is the government.

Consider Sen. Paul’s “solution” to CHCC’s utility expenses. He says the governor should reprogram $3 million from the executive branch and give it to CHCC. All right. So which among the executive branch offices, programs, services, etc. should get less funding? Who are the government employees whose jobs and/or paychecks could be affected by the $3 million budget cut proposed by the Rota senator?

As for the other lawmakers who are also opposed to giving the governor 100% reprogramming authority — what is their alternative proposal?  How much should each executive branch department, agency, service, program receive? Where are your figures? Show us please.

As many of us should realize by now, the government budget is based on predictions that may or may not pan out — or could be rendered obsolete by succeeding, unforeseen events. Moreover, this election-year’s House-Senate budget deadlock was complicated by the sheer difficulty of appropriating meager funds, some of which could be nonexistent.

Meanwhile, everyone is for budget cuts — as long as they’re not affected. Everyone is for raising revenue — as long as they won’t pay more. And everyone, or most everyone, cling to the belief that government and elected officials are magicians who, through “political will,” “intelligence,” etc., could will into existence all the good stuff that is only made possible by a vibrant economy.

Possible preview of 2022 gubernatorial election

SOME may find the recent exchange of letters between the governor and the delegate amusing; but others are hoping that the vital work these two officials perform on behalf of, and for the NMI people, will not be affected by their political differences. Politicians who belong to rival political parties are not always expected to see eye to eye on all issues. On Guam, the governor and delegate belong to the same political party, but have also clashed publicly. In the case of the CNMI governor and delegate, their constituents also expect them, at the very least, to not work against each other in advancing the Commonwealth’s interests in Washington, D.C. 

With the local economy still in a coma due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the very few tools available to the CNMI as it tries to keep its government afloat will include federal emergency assistance at least until the pandemic is finally under control or more manageable. Also crucial are changes to current CW and other immigration rules that are needlessly impeding — if not strangling — economic recovery.

Completing these tasks will directly benefit the people that the governor and the delegate say they faithfully serve, so we hope that the two gentlemen will remain focused on what really matters to the CNMI.

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