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Saipan Tribune:11 govt agencies, programs get additional funds (December 20, 2016)

Eleven departments and programs of the CNMI government would get additional funding after the Senate passed House Bill 19-212 last week, earmarking supplemental appropriations from the business gross revenue tax collected from the lone casino license holder. Rep. Antonio P. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) introduced HB 19-212.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed HB 19-212 today at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe, along with HB 19-158 that compensates private landowners and court judgments, and HB 19-209 that gives civil service employees a 5-percent salary adjustment.

Torres, in a letter to Senate President Francisco M. Borja (Ind-Tinian) and House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan), said that Best Sunshine LIVE’s business gross revenue tax has pumped in new money that could be used for various programs.

“It has been a little over a year since our gaming industry’s live training facility began its operation, but since then our Commonwealth has seen a significant influx of new revenue that underscores not just our economic resurgence, but also the viability of our tourism industry,” said Torres. “This bill will help to improve the standard of living for our people and strengthen our government’s ability to provide quality public service to our islands.”

HB 19-212 identified a projected amount of $40,967,307.88 out of the $47 million BGRT that has already been collected in fiscal year 2017. HB 19-212 sets aside $10,241,826 for the Public School System; almost half of the money will be used to buy instructional materials for language, arts, math, science, and social studies.

The other recipients of the money are land compensation payments ($9 million); Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. ($7 million); the central government’s payment to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. ($3,624,116); retirees and beneficiaries’ bonus ($3.5 million); Fuel Adjustment Clause rate subsidy and Medical Referral Program ($2 million each); outstanding lump sum wages of all active and inactive employees frozen at Step 12 ($1,451,365); Governor’s Office Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, and Community Guidance Center programs ($1 million), Northern Marianas College ($1 million), and Northern Marianas Trades Institute ($150,000).

Torres said he knows there are a lot more things to do as the CNMI economy continues to improve. “It is my hope we continue this work of progress together as we press forward in the coming year to create a more efficient government that acts as an agent of change. …And as a government that reaches its goal of [improving] the lives of the people who call these islands home.”

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