In the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the House of Representatives has passed a budget that gives the governor free rein over how to spend $75 million for the Executive Branch, but specifically bars him from using any public funds for the lawsuit he has filed against the U.S. government over the new immigration law.
By a 15-4 vote, the House sent the fiscal year 2009 appropriation bill on its way to the Senate, where, the local newspaper says, it is expected to meet strong opposition.
Senate leaders are against granting a lump sum budget to the Executive Branch.
The House-passed budget appropriates $165.37 million in resources, including $156.7 million in projected government revenue, $5.17 million in Compact Impact aid, and $3.5 million of "unencumbered" funds from different accounts outside the general fund.
The restriction against funding the federalization lawsuit was one of the major amendments made to the budget bill during debate on the House floor.
Rep. Diego T. Benavente, who moved to include the prohibition, said the CNMI government simply could not afford the lawsuit, which he said could cost much more than the initial $400,000 estimate.