7 Apr 2008

Austerity bill goes to CNMI's Governor

5:26 am on 7 April 2008

In the Northern Marianas, an austerity bill is now on its way to the Governor after the Senate passed it without amendment.

Five senators voted in favor of the bill restoring the austerity Friday programme and suspending holiday pay for the three holidays remaining in the fiscal year.

But Senate President Pete Reyes abstained, saying he would not vote in favor of any austerity measure until the long-delayed pozzolan mining project in Pagan is implemented.

Governor Benigno Fitial is expected to sign the bill into law immediately.

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives at his request.

Under the bill, the CNMI government will shut down every other Friday from April 18, 2008 through the end of the current fiscal year.

The Public School System and Northern Marianas College will remain open on austerity Fridays to prevent disruption of classes.

Also exempted are government agencies normally required to open on legal holidays and to maintain a 24-hour schedule.

The measures are expected to raise approximately 17 million US dollars for government operations.

The Governor had asked the Legislature to enact the so-called interim fiscal measures amid dwindling government revenues and the lack of an updated government budget.