Wednesday, February 11, 2009

328. Fiscal Matters

Today's headline is that Governor Fitial vetoed the budget again. Of course he did--it doesn't give him what he wants. He wants unlimited reprogramming authority. He wants austerity Fridays. He wants as little oversight as possible and as much power in his hands as he can get.

The current situation gives him room to maneuver. He can claim severe economic crisis to deny those he doesn't like, and still pay huge attorney fees for a federalization lawsuit, manage subsidies for "volunteers" and do other perky things.

A real budget, backed by a legislature doing its job and keeping tabs on how the money is spent, could be a set-back.

Will our Legislature have the intelligence and back-bone to override Governor Fitial's veto? Senator Frica Pangelinan seems supportive of an override. Her comments shed light on some issues and help decode some of the political statements--the Legislature's budget does make cuts, but in a more thoughtful way, a more specific way, than across the board austerity Fridays.

Representative Tina Sablan seems ready, too. Her comments point to the hypocrisy of the current situation, where some agencies continue to have fluff jobs at an endless rate of growth, for friends of the governor.

But this Legislature contains many of the same men who have failed to protect our resources, have failed to pass a budget for several years, have failed to find a way to stave off the spread of third-world conditions here.

This is the same Legislature that failed to override the veto in January 2009.
Voting against the override in January 2009:

David M. Apatang
Oscar Babauta
Joseph James N. Camacho
Francisco Dela Cruz
Raymond D. Palacios
Justo S. Quitugua
Ramon A. Tebuteb
Stanley Torres

And not voting (absent)
Edwin P. Aldan
Victor Hocog

You can verify the list at J.J. Camacho's website--just look for the override vote on HB-16-169.

We need to AT LEAST take one step at a time, in the right direction. We need to do what is right.

I applaud the Saipan Tribune for its daily front page ticker on how long we've gone without a budget. I applaud the 10 Representatives who voted to override the veto last month. I applaud the Senators who speak out on the issue.

This is a very important issue. We need a budget. We need a budget. We need a budget.

We need our Legislature to override the Governor's veto, if that's what it takes to get a budget. And that is what it takes. Otherwise, the "budget" the Governor wants is nothing more than carte blanche-not a budget but a free rein.

Some of our elected leaders are making noises that they may actually override the veto this time. But of course, others still want to support our Governor! What about supporting the people? What about doing what is right? What about having some guts?

I agree (for once) with the comments by Heinz Hofschneider. We need a budget more than we need endless debate on the benefits and detriments of austerity Fridays.

Override the veto.

(And if you want to fix the US budget problems at the same time, try this budget game and learn something, too.


Marianas Pride said...

I think they will override it. Elections are coming up, and it is time to put all the blame on everyone else. And of course, we will see a whole lot of bills and action in the next few months.

Two things we won't see? The Open Government Act and a part-time legislature. When you are above the law, an open government act cannot apply. And a part-time legislature would make too much common and fiscal sense.

Oh well, let's prepare for more empty promises and reasons why the same ol' same ol' should be reelected. Insanity rules!

Saipan Writer said...

The Senate has voted to override the veto on the budget-today's headlines. Good news.

Now we need the House, a trickier situation.

I hope they do override the veto, not because I think this is stellar budget, but because WE NEED A BUDGET.

Open Government--wonderful discussion on NPR this morning. Elizabeth Warren, a brilliant woman from Harvard who is chairing the US Congressional oversight committee on budget.., was discussing the problem with Paulson's sale of Bush's bailout to banks--basically telling Congress they would get par value for their purchase of TARP stock & warrants, when in fact they were getting $2 value for $3 spent--when applied to the billion dollar package that means a lot of money given away.

This woman talked about three kinds of Open Government/transparency concepts--1) the technical compliance type where documents (cold, hard, sometimes confusing, meaningless, sometimes with the devil in the details) are disclosed in plain sight-on websites, etc.; 2) the strategic type-seeing the decision-making process; and 3) a third type that she said called for a clearly articulated and honest plan on how we're spending money.

(You can listen to her report at NPR-All Things Considered

Wow! We could use this as a model for figuring out our own Open Government Act--and insist that it be passed by our Legislature!

Saipan Writer said...

Gee, I'm not sure that link takes you to the right podcast. Try this one: about the TARP expert Elizabeth Warran (and then click on the podcast link.

Saipan Writer said...

Oh yeah. Let's not forget to look for discrepancies in the budget, too.

Like the report that we were hiring a lobbying firm (Fleischman Hilliard) in 2008 for $25,000.

But the federal disclosures show that we actually spent $60,000 for lobbying in 2008.

This is peanuts compared to our entire budget, but with leaks like this, no wonder we're sinking.

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