Budget Questions

April 1, 2012

CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial's budget proposal for the 2013 fiscal year is already raising questions. The $102 million budget reflects the devastated economic state of the CNMI and the refusal of the governor and legislature to take any action over the last five years to raise much-needed revenue. The "austerity" measures or 16-hour cuts to certain government employee's bi-weekly pay remains.

The governor's budget proposal would increase funding to the executive branch by 32 percent and the lieutenant governor's office by 7 percent. The House and Senate Leadership accounts saw an increase as did the controversial discretionary funds of the legislators.

At the same time he proposes cutting the budget of the Legislative Bureau, the Legislature, Rota, the Northern Islands, and the Marianas Visitors Administration. The worse move was cutting the budgets of the Northern Mariana College and keeping the struggling Public School System's budget at the same low underfunded level. Additionally the Commonwealth Health Corp. would receive only $2.2 million for Medicaid match.

The budget underscores the governor's reputation as a self-serving politician who puts his interests first and the public's interests far behind.

One remark that the Marianas Variety attributed to the governor may catch the attention of federal officials:
"However, Fitial said NMC and the Public School System will receive money from transitional worker fees amounting to $1.5 million."
The CNMI received $1.8 million from the start of the CW program until February 2012.

I may be mistaken, but I am fairly certain that PL 110-229 calls for $150 to be charged with each CW application to be allocated for training of U.S. citizens. I believe this was to be applied to vocational training programs, which are primarily for teens and adults (high school and post secondary education programs) and were not meant be used to replace regular PSS funding.

The CNRA states:
(6) CERTAIN EDUCATION FUNDING- In addition to fees charged pursuant to section
286(m) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1356(m)) to recover the full
costs of providing adjudication services, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall
charge an annual supplemental fee of $150 per nonimmigrant worker to each
prospective employer who is issued a permit under subsection (d) of this section
during the transition period. Such supplemental fee shall be paid into the Treasury of
the Commonwealth government for the purpose of funding ongoing vocational educational curricula and program development by Commonwealth educational entities.
Vocational training is different from the general education fund. The CNMI government could find itself having to pay back money if this money is misspent. Paying the salaries for kindergarten teachers or paying CUC or other vendors is not how this money was intended to be used. The idea was to train U.S. citizen to do the jobs that foreign workers are now filling.


Anonymous said...

Didn't PSS pay CUC with the federal money?