September 28, 2010

Dear members of the 17th CNMI Legislature,

I am writing as a deeply worried CNMI resident, taxpayer, and voter to urge all of you to uphold your fundamental constitutional duty as legislators and pass a timely balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2011.

The prospect of a government shutdown is as serious as the crippling fiscal deficit we face. As of September 30, 2009, that deficit has ballooned to more than $300.8million, created by years of runaway government spending and the legislature’s chronic failure to annually pass a balanced budget. The people of the CNMI voted to change the Constitution to disallow continuing resolutions and to impose a government shutdown in the absence of a budget because we recognized, as our leaders must recognize, that a government that fails to live within its means is a government that ultimately fails its people, and robs from the wellbeing and prosperity of present and future generations.

Senators and Representatives of the 17th CNMI legislature, our government must live within its means. It is entirely within your power to ensure that a responsible, balanced budget is set for the year. These are trying times for all the people of the CNMI, and the political games you are playing in your chambers serve no one.

House leaders, stop trying to force the casino bill down the throats of your Saipan constituents who have now twice voted against it. How many times must we say "no"? Enough with the blackmail, the fear-mongering, and empty promises. You yourselves have acknowledged that it would be years before any revenue might be realized from any Saipan casino that might materialize; in the meantime we would have to brace ourselves for the exorbitant costs of a new gaming commission that will likely hire expensive consultants and go on fact-finding missions. If you do not have better ideas for stabilizing and revitalizing our economy and government, then please, do us all a favor and resign.

Senate leaders, stop trying to maintain the status quo of a bloated government by squeezing the remaining life out of our embattled private sector with drastic increases in taxes and fees. The status quo is dead. It never served us well anyway. You do not “generate revenue” for the government by destroying the private sector. You do not preserve jobs or consumer buying power by radically raising the cost of doing business and forcing local companies to close down or increase prices. Here are some of the questions we want you to explore instead: How do we make it easier to do business here? How do we build wealth and opportunities in the private sector? How can the government cut costs?

And here are a just a few of the many ideas we have proposed as your constituents for cutting government costs: Reduce the discretionary funds of the legislature and the executive branch, and impose stricter guidelines for expenditures. Scrap your excessive subsistence allowances. Terminate vehicle leases, cell phones, free utilities, and other generous perks for all elected officials. Stop all unnecessary travel. Suspend compensation for all government boards and councils. Terminate all the lucrative and nonessential contracts of consultants, private law firms, lobbyists, and special advisors in all branches of government.

Over the course of the past few weeks more than three hundred CNMI residents and taxpayers have signed onto petitions urging you to pass a responsible, balanced budget in time for Fiscal Year 2011. I submit those petitions herewith, via this link.

We are just a sampling of the many thousands of people who are watching the debacle in the legislature with increasing dismay and justified anger.

We want you to prioritize funding for essential services. We want you to define those essential services by law, and not try to abdicate your lawmaking responsibilities to the governor so he can rule us all by memo or executive order. We want you to ensure the payment of the government's obligations to the retirement fund, utilities, judgments, and debts, and the implementation of an independent desk audit of the government that is so desperately needed.

For the sake of all our people, pass a balanced budget on time and make our government finally live within its means. That is your primary responsibility as legislators.


Tina Sablan


Anonymous said...

As usual, well written Tina, but I think the lawmakers don't see anyone past themselves and their families.
Let's say the Government is a boat. The Captain has just learned that 20% of the weight must be removed or the boat will sink, drowning everyone. The sensible thing to do is pick 20% (some "fatter" than others)and commit them to the briney deep. Of course, this is not the CNMI way. Here they will cut off everyones left arm and throw it overboard,cutting the weight, but leaving everyone to die a slow painful death. Why the left arm. Well, they need their right arm to vote, right.

Anonymous said...

Good analogy, Anon. You left one thing out. El Capitan and his crooked officers are safely in a comfy cabin cruiser, eating paté and drinking champagne purchased with our money!

Anonymous said...

I hear they are handing out cake at the legislature this morning. Well, not really cake, just day old bread. As usual, they tell you to close your eyes, open your mouth, and swallow anything they give you.

Anonymous said...

The "good" people of the CNMI chose corruption over Tina. Their suffering is earned and will be long. Maybe when they are eating ship bisquits for breakfast lunch and dinner everyday they will have a change of heart.