Thursday, November 5, 2009

Voting on Initiatives-one by one-#2

House Legislative Initiative 16-11 (H.L.I. 16-11) Amends Article III, section 9 (a) of the CNMI Constitution. Introduced by Diego T. Benavente, Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, Ed Salas and Ray Yumul.

It makes the following changes:
1. deletes the language that provides for budget allocation at the same level as the previous year when no balanced budget is approved before the first day of the fiscal year.

2. provides that no money shall be drawn for government operations without a budget;

3. makes an exception to the no money rule for "certain government services and employees provided by law... essential to the health safety, and welfare of the people... and to protect against damage to and destruction of property."

4. mandates that the Governor submit a balanced budget proposal to the Legislature by 4/1; and suspends his salary if he doesn't and until he does'

5. suspends the legislature's salary if they don't pass a balanced budget by 10/1 until they do pass one.

I've got to admit to having mixed feelings about this proposal. And to feeling that this type of issue is beyond my ability to figure out. Liberal minds differ on the need for this type of "balanced budget" requirement for state governments.

It seems extreme. It would also require quick legislative action to determine what essential services would remain in effectin the absence of a budget.

Is maintaining property a call to keep DPW workers on staff? What about parks and rec people? And the guys who hang out at the Multi-Purpose Center, sweeping the parking lot and making sure the building is clean?

Would the need to meet the deadline add more pressure for Saipan Senators to cave in to demands from the minority populations on Tinian and Rota?

It seems we have money problems, but don't we need more open government and transparency to see where the money is going, how much we've got from all sources, and some prosecutions for mishandling of funds? Would these tools provide the benefits we need?

Or do we really need this more drastic approach.

Part of me thinks the salaries should be held when people aren't doing their jobs. But what if the decision to vote against a proposed budget is made in good conscience?

I'm undecided on this H.L.I. 16-11.

EDIT: There is no link to the CEC pamphlet on pros and cons in this blog post because the CEC site doesn't have it up; their link is mistakenly tied to S.L.I. 16-11, not H.L.I. 16-11. But you can find the pros and cons for this H.L.I. 16-11 in the CEC's Voters Manual, at page 3.


The Saipan Blogger said...

It is also complicated by the fact that half of those guys are retired and draw a retirement salary, while their regular salary goes to the scholarship fund.

Saipan Writer said...

Interesting. So the old guys won't feel the pressure, but the younger, freshmen legislators will?


KAP said...

In other places similar provisions sometimes end in brinksmanship; a game of chicken to see who swerves first with innocent bystanders taking the most damage.

Also, there's nothing to stop the Governor and the Legislature from cynically coming up with a 'balanced' budget that is totally unrealistic. When the Governor's budget is amended and the Legislature's budget is vetoed we're back at square one.

Oh. And, 'austerity' has given us some idea of the games that can be played in coming up with 'essential' employees.

There's got to be a better way