29 Sep 2012

114 million dollar budget bill passed in CNMI but Governor has last word

7:22 am on 29 September 2012

The Northern Marianas Senate and House of Representatives passed a 114-million US dollar budget bill on Friday to try to prevent a partial government shutdown on the 1st of October.

The approved bill keeps intact a promised restoration of 80 work hours bi-weekly from the current 72 hours and earlier, 64 hours, but chops down funding for some agencies and imposes an across-the-board cut of 1.78 percent to balance the budget.

The 1.78 percent across-the-board cut also applies to the five priority agencies identified: the Public School System, Medical Referral Program, Medicaid reimbursement, Northern Marianas College, and Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation.

However, there is no telling whether Governor Benigno Fitial will sign the budget bill in time for Sunday's deadline, given that some lawmakers themselves expressed extreme reservations about some of its provisions.

If no budget is in place by Sunday, the government will have to partially shut down starting Monday, as required by the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution.