Budget Bill Passed

October 9, 2010

News that the budget bill passed the Legislature may be welcoming to some, but until the CNMI government stops acting like an employment agency, the fiscal problems will never be solved.  For far too long CNMI politicians have viewed the CNMI revenue as their own piggy bank.  Why else would legislators even propose raising their personal discretionary and leadership accounts, while at the same time slashing the salaries of government employees?

For far too long CNMI politicians have viewed government jobs as political enticements, offering a job for a vote, and a really high-paying job for a block of votes. When more votes have been needed, more unneeded jobs have been created to exchange for the votes.  When the CNMI was raking in millions of dollars in revenue from the garment industry and on the backs of the disenfranchised foreign workers, the bloated CNMI government may have been workable, but it appears that the game is over. 

Asking employees to take 16-hour cuts per pay period may free up some funds, but isn't the real solution to eliminate all of the unneeded positions once and for all? Shouldn't the government be encouraging people to get job training and skills to work in the private sector or to open their own businesses to grow the economy? There is a provision under PL110-229 to provide vocational and job training for  local residents.

A 16-hour cut will certainly be a tremendous hardship for many. With the economy in such a desperate state the wage earners most likely won't be able to supplement their lost income with private sector jobs.  It's likely that many more families will be exiting the CNMI to work in the states or Guam where the wages are higher and they can earn a decent living in the private sector. Recently, it was announced that the increase in the CNMI minimum wage for 2011 will be delayed for a year. This is yet one more blow to the majority of the CNMI's workers who are already underpaid and are struggling to meet all of their living expenses. How can the economy grow, if people have no money to spend?

The Saipan Tribune reported:
Both the House and the Senate have already agreed on 13 unpaid holidays for Fiscal Year 2011, $85,000 in each lawmaker's annual discretionary fund, a leadership account of $138,000 each for the House and Senate, a $6.256 million budget each for Rota and Tinian, reinstatement of budget for the Commonwealth Zoning Board, and funding for Northern Marianas College and the Public School System.
There are many obvious places where budget cuts could easily be made and essential government services would not be sacrificed. For starters, there is absolutely no need for a full-time legislature in the CNMI. It's an extravagance. Most states in the U.S. have part-time legislatures.  Huge expense accounts, discretionary funds, and leadership accounts are absolutely unwarranted. Government vehicles and phones should be eliminated. CNMI leaders should pay for their own utilities at their private residences. There is absolutely no need for the governor to have so many special counsels, consultants and lobbyists.  All, but the critical off-island trips are an extravagance and should cease. 

A recent desk audit of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and the Department of Public Safety predictably revealed that the departments were overstaffed, had excessive amounts of overtime costs, had unjustified positions and had duplication of assignments and jobs.  The overtime pay was even found to be out of compliance with grant funding.  If every CNMI agency, department and office was scaled back to hire only essential personnel, the savings would be significant.

Still cutting expenses is half of the problem; raising needed revenue is the other part of the equation and it appears that it is being ignored.  Sales, income or other taxes should be considered. No, the passing of this particular budget bill is not good news for the people of the CNMI.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It took a $300K outside consultant to tell the CNMI government that it is overstaffed? I wonder how much the kickback was from that $300K.

Anonymous said...

The consultation company is owned by Lynn Knight. She and Sergio G.

$300K to do an organizational review on 2 agencies. Not a desk audit, which is truly what we need.

Corruption Incorporated.

How is she profiting off our government when she was recently the CEDA and SBDC person.

So wrong.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure about Lynn Knight owning Management Analysis Inc? It's a big, blue-chip public-sector consulting firm that's older than the CNMI. No mention of Lynn Knight on their webpage:

http://mainet.com/about/president.html

Addendum: now I look further, and see that Lynn Knight is a PROJECT MANAGER there, not the OWNER. Like the difference between owning McDonalds and being a fry cook.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/lynnknight08

Anonymous said...

noni 11:35pm:

glad you looked into it.

yes she is the fry cook there. the same fry cook that initially hired MIA to do work with the CNMI government. hmm. conflict of interest? give them a sole sourced contract. quit. get hired with them and get a few more contracts with the CNMI?

you okay with this? sure you are. lol