Seeing Red in the CNMI

January 13, 2012

The CNMI government is out of money and is running in the red with a $25.8 million deficit for 2011. The legislature has failed to come up with any revenue generating plans. It looks like the money is being shifted from one account to another in order to meet day to day expenses. The Retirement Fund is running on empty and is expected to be totally depleted in 2.9 years. It appears that the Marianas Public Land Trust (MPLT) will replace the retirement fund as the CNMI's new piggy bank until the funds are gone from there too.

It looks like a memo went out from the governor's office to CNMI departments and legislators ordering them to raise revenue.

This month it was announced that the Fire Division intends to inspect all 3,000 businesses in the CNMI, apparently to raise revenue by imposing fees and fines. These fire inspections fees have some business owners seeing red. The Saipan Tribune reported:

Commercial establishments need to get a $100 special permit for candles and open flame devices, as well as $100 per Christmas tree, among other things, on top of the $500 fire re-inspection fee and $500 for fire code permit that some businesses describe as “excessive” and unjustifiable.

“They're killing small businesses like us,” James Han, owner of QQ Car Rental, said in an interview yesterday.
Han reported having to pay "at least $1,000" for inspection and permits. Another business owner reported that this is the first time that the business had to pay $500 for a ten minute inspection and an additional $500 for a permit.  If the fees are not paid by January 17th another fee of $500 will be imposed.

The Department of Public Works also conducts building code safety inspections. Business owners claim that the fire inspections duplicate these building safety inspections. Were these fire inspection fees publicly advertised? Were businesses notified of the new permit and inspection fees?

The Northern Marianas College (NMC) is sticking it to students who are permanent residents (green card holders) by imposing an international fee of $200 on them. These students and their parents are also seeing red. They question why the college is imposing this fee on permanent U.S. residents.

The college's response was ignorant and insensitive. One parent reported that her daughter "was told that she had to pay the international fee because the federal government can at any time revoke her green card."

Green cards are rarely revoked and can only be revoked if specific violations are committed, such as if the status was obtained under fraudulent means or if the card holder commits a felony.

The Marianas Variety reported:
“This is discriminatory,” the mother said, adding that the college should stop imposing its own immigration rules.

In an email, acting NMC President Leo Pangelinan said the $200 international student fee was established by the board of regents to help pay for programs and services that benefit international students.
The college should tell the students what special programs and services these fees are funding. NMC should provide instruction on how the international students can access the programs. The fees should be reflected in a line budget item. This will ensure that the students who are paying the extra fees are truly benefiting from the charges and should show that the extra fees are not being absorbed into the NMC general fund to fund salaries and other general expenses.

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) may also join the fund-raising efforts.  Rep Janet Maratita announced a bill proposing increasing fines for speeding violations by 50%.

Other departments are also coming up with revenue-generating schemes. Numerous fees are included in the CNMI's proposed new labor bill, suggesting that the bill has two goals: to preempt federal law in an attempt to take back control of the immigration and to serve as a primary source of revenue.

It is not surprising that Public Auditor Michael Pai intends to continue the investigation concerning the spending of ARRA funds.  Who knows the extent of how these funds have been used or misused?  The Fitial Administration is bashing Pai for failing to drop the investigation. which should be seen as a signal to move the investigation forward at full throttle speed.

Fitial's loyal soldier, Michael Ada, resigned as Secretary of the CNMI Department of Commerce to set up his own private business, Integrated Professional Solutions, to oversee the CNMI's ARRA funds.  The governor signed Ada's contract even before he had a business license. (Read about the ARRA scandal at this August 2011post, DOJ Continues to Investigate ARRA Contract That Violated Five CNMI Laws. It contains links to 13 other posts about Ada and the ARRA scandal.)

Thousands of residents are waiting for previous years' tax rebates and stimulus payments. They suspect (most likely correctly) that the CNMI government has spent that money, which is why their rebates may never be received. Some of the money owed to the taxpayers includes federal funds from ARRA stimulus grants, the Making Work Pay Tax Credit and the Education Credit. From the he CNMI Tax and Revenue website:
The Division of Revenue and Taxation has been receiving inquiries about the stimulus refund under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The Making Work Pay Credit (MWPC) and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (Education Credits) under ARRA are refundable tax credits available to eligible taxpayers for tax years 2009 and 2010. Most earners are eligible to take this credit.

To claim these credits, you must complete Schedule M (Making Work Pay and Government Retiree Credits) for MWPC or Form 8863 (American Opportunity, Hope, and Lifetime Learning Credits) for the Education Credit and enter your computed credit on your tax return.
Absolutely, Public Auditor Pai should investigate the status of ARRA funds, including the stimulus tax credit money owed to individual taxpayers. This money should already be in the pockets of the taxpayers. Too many have not received their rebates; some claim that their checks have been stolen and cashed by others.  Some of the taxpayers are foreign workers who have left the CNMI without receiving their rebates and others who do not want to leave until they do. Investigate away!


Anonymous said...

Raise fees to generate money? Every single state, city and town are doing this to raise cash. The states are broke, bankrupt and are doing everything possible to raise money. They are letting murderers walk free, setting up speed traps and raising fees on everything from trying to open a business to building a bathroom.

Anonymous said...

Every single state, city and town is not raising fees to raise money especially in ways that deter businesses and investment. Colleges do not typically charge green card holders fees that apply to foreign students. Tax rebates and ARRA refunds are withheld in the CNMI. No other taxpayers would put up with the CNMI's crap.

Green Cards for All! said...

I am well known for opposing frivolous lawsuits. So believe me when I say that NMC's imposition on Green Card holders is a great opportunity for an under-employed lawyer to make some quick civil rights class action attorney fees in federal court. If NMC hasn't run this by counsel, they need to do so ASAP. If they did consult counsel, NMC needs a new one.

Green Card holders must be exempted immediately.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the Fitialites are doing the best to finish off the CNMI by what has been mentioned and other actions by incompetent brain dead people.
The elected are just as bad as they do not have a clue either and their inaction is just as bad as any adverse action.
This moronic assessment against business to get these additional fees by both PW and the Fire Dept.(and others) by incompetent people that have no idea or legitimate training about fire codes is just another example of gross stupidity.
I wonder how many more business Fitial and his Mafia will drive out with all of this type of "new revenue generating measures".
As far as this assessment on Green Card holders classifying them as foreign students is just another asinine attempt by some that do not have the reading or verbal comprehension and have no idea of what they are doing.
Best all of the outside business move on and also all of the CW workers.
Leave these idiots to wallow in their own excrement.

No wonder so many of the locals are leaving along with business.
Also no wonder no business want to take a chance of doing any business in the NMI.
How many prospective investors have come through with big talk and good intentions only to leave and never return after seeing the mess and incompetence and talking to others.(many with their hands out)
How many other business have left to Guam (and elsewhere) just to get away from this corruption by these incapable clowns.
How many more are in the planning stage of leaving.
There are so many Indigenous just waiting to sell their land and also to leave once Art. XII is repealed.
Many of these people are in the upper class.
When that time arrives concerning Art. XII, most likely many of these bigger "local" family business may be sold to outsiders after Fitial and his group are out, as the younger generation plan to leave or already are gone and do not have any desire to return.
Another thing will be interesting to see just how many Russians will continue to visit now that Guam has the "Visa waiver" in effect.
Same goes for China if that is ever enacted for Guam.

Anonymous said...

When I applied for Certificate of Occupancy from Office of the Building Safety official, Department of Public Work in 1998, the official explained to me this license could be effective for life-time as long as your business existed. But from 2010 the certificate of occupancy has to be renewed annually plus $25 fee.
Remember the inspection from DPW have already included fire code.
Now the Department of Public Safety starts to charge $500 for fire permit, namely to enforce the 1988 law. As I know, this law has never been effective. Every year fire code officers voluntarily go to inspect the business where it sells firecracker and give the fire permit without any charge.
Now the economy rocks to the bottom, all the businesses are struggling. DPS starts to enforce this law to every business whether it is small or big, whether is sells fire cracker or not. It obviously is killing the dying business.
Wendy, I really feel not safe although the law is from DPS. The innocent human heart is badly hurt. It’s unbelievable that CNMI is still under the control of USA.

Anonymous said...

The U.S.A. is AWOL in the CNMI. The runaway Fitial corruption machine will destroy every last hope and inflict pain on every man, woman and child. Leave now CWs and spread the word in your homelands.