CNMI cuts budget due to tourism downturn

The members of the CNMI's 21st Legislature are preparing to reduce their respective funding allocations.

With the CNMI government set to lose tourism revenues due to the global coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Ralph Torres has ordered the legislature to make a significant cut to the commonwealth’s 2020 budget.

The members of the CNMI’s 21st Legislature are preparing to reduce their respective funding allocations in response to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’s call for across-the-board cuts.

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The governor, in his letter to Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao and Senate President Victor Hocog, said the government’s $148.8 million budget for fiscal year 2020 should be cut by 28.3 percent in light of the drastic decline in tourist arrivals following the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Speaker Attao said the governor used his emergency power to implement across-the-board cuts for all three branches of the government.

House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan said each house member has taken steps to cut their allotments, specifically for leased cars, fuel, office supplies, and other operational expenses.

“We are now all preparing for the cuts. We have started making adjustments already and holding off on all the purchases that were initiated prior to the governor’s budget-cut letter,” Sablan said.

He could not say, however, if cuts could still be made to legislators’ salaries, which were already reduced by 20 percent last year, from $39,000 to $32,000 per year.

Sablan added that the governor indicated the reduction should be “for the remainder of the fiscal year,” which means that it applies only to the expenditures in February and the following months.