Administration wants to hire 84 new employees

BUDGET MEETING: In June the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands was looking for areas to trim down the budget because government revenues were down. This week, Gov. Ralph Torres, seen at center of this June photo, wants to hire 84 new employees. In this photo, he is conferring with Board of Education Chairwoman Janice Tenorio and Public School System finance and budget director Christopher Ching. Post file photo courtesy of Marianas Variety

SAIPAN - Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is requesting the Legislature to allow his administration to hire 84 new government employees for fiscal year 2020.

He said the funding source is “outside of the general fund.”

Public Law 21-8 or the $148.8 million fiscal 2020 budget measure limits the number of government positions to 3,425 excluding the 80 employees of the Department of Public Lands.

On Monday, the governor met with the leadership of the House of Representatives and Senate in his conference room to discuss his request.

He said there is a need to “address personnel needs of major departments and agencies under the executive branch.”

In a letter on Tuesday, Torres told Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao and Senate President Victor B. Hocog that he has submitted a request to the House Ways and Means Committee for the 84 “supplemental NOPs [number of positions] for various departments and agencies within the executive branch.”

In an interview on Thursday, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ivan Blanco said he is ready to pre-file a bill to amend the fiscal 2020 budget law to accommodate the governor’s proposal.

In a separate interview, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan said as soon as Blanco introduces the proposed amendment to the budget in the next House session, he will place it on the calendar for action.

“It is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed immediately,” he added.

In his letter to Attao and Hocog, the governor said: “I wish to reiterate that my request for additional NOPs will not require general funds appropriations. Funding for such NOPs, if approved, will be derived from sources outside of the general fund.”

These funding sources include:

• H.R. 21-57 or the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Relief for FY 2019, which will provide competitive grants in the amount of $17.2 billion for five major disasters within the United States, of which two of the five listed disasters are Super Typhoon Yutu and Typhoon Mangkhut. The governor said this means that the CNMI will have a competitive edge when applying for these grants.

However, he said, “It is (also) imperative for the CNMI to have the expertise and manpower resources in order to compete for the highest possible levels of funding opportunities.”

• The Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide access to grants in the amount of approximately $205 million for disasters that affected the CNMI and American Samoa. Of this amount, the governor said, $120 million will be made available for projects in the CNMI.

• The Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, recently awarded the CNMI $2 million in technical assistance program funding for the implementation of a modernized financial management system.

“We anticipate the instrumental role that these resources will have in assisting us to meet our shared goal of recovering from the typhoon, reviving our economy and infrastructure, and overall, improving the lives of all CNMI citizens and residents,” the governor said.