CNMI starts enforcing austerity measures

(PNC file photo)

The CNMI will begin enforcing its austerity measures which include massive pay cuts to lawmakers’ salaries.

With the CNMI government set to lose tourism revenues due to the global coronavirus outbreak, Governor Ralph Torres had ordered the legislature to reduce the commonwealth’s 2020 budget earlier this month.

According to a report from the Marianas Variety, the funding for the CNMI Governor and the  Lt. Governor’s offices as well as the salaries of 29 lawmakers will be reduced by 28.3 percent, as stated in the proposed budget adjustments by the Office of Management & Budget for fiscal year 2020.

Special Assistant for Management and Budget Vicky Villagomez notified the House members last week about the adjustments.

From $813,489, the budget for personnel of the governor’s office will be reduced to $582,993 while the governor’s discretionary fund is down to $36,191 from $50,000.

The Lt. Governor’s personnel budget will be reduced from $605,801 to $434,152 and the discretionary fund, from $50,000 to $36,191.

From $385,996, the budget for the senators’ salaries is now $276,627, which means that each senator’s annual salary went down from $42,000 to $30,736.

The senators’ office allocations were reduced by 19.1 percent. From $945,000 it is down to $763,780 while funding for the Senate leadership, which was set at $300,000 is now down to $242,470.

From $770,031, the budget for the House members’ salary has been adjusted to $551,848 or $27,500 annually or $12.98 an hour for each member.

The austerity measures also impacted CNMI’s education and public health sectors.

The budget for the CNMI Public School System will be significantly cut from $37.7 million to $27 million, while the budget of the Northern Marianas College will be reduced from $5.9 million to $4.2 million.

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation’s budget will be cut down from $2 million to $1.4 million.

Governor Torres said early projections show that the CNMI is set to lose at least $40 million in revenue due to the tourism slowdown.