Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FSM Congress passes FY15 budget on first reading and lifts rescrictions to address FY14 budget shortfall

FSMIS (September 22, 2014): On its eight day of this Fifth Regular Session, the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), among other actions, passed the Fiscal Year 2015 Recommended Budget on first reading, with some changes to the bill, and still more changes expected to be made during the final reading.
Senator Isaac V. Figir, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Ways and Means, led the discussion on Standing Committee Report No. 18-209, which recommends the passage of Congressional Bill No. 18-216. The bill is for an Act to appropriate $54,103,500 from the General Fund of the FSM for the Fiscal Year ending September 30, 2015, in order to provide funding for the operations of all the branches of the FSM National Government, its agencies, programs, grants, subsidies, contributions, and capital and human resources development initiatives, and other purposes.
The Members present held some debates before passing the bill on first reading. Vice Speaker Paliknoa K. Welly pushed for and got passed a floor amendment to the bill that resulted in the deletion of a budget line item that would make available an amount of $50,000 to fund sidewalk construction along the Sekere-Palikir road. The Vice Speaker said he understood that another appropriation bill has already included the same construction need as part of its rationale. After much discussion, the Senators accommodated Vice Speaker Welly's concern and agreed to allow the Committee on Ways and Means to work on necessary corrections on the bill's figures before its final reading tomorrow.
Another important action relates to Congressional Bill No. 18-214, which contains a request from the Executive Branch for Congress to lift the restriction on the President's ability to reprogram funds into (and out of) personnel budget in the Executive Branch in order to address personnel budget shortfall for various offices.
Today, on first reading of the bill, Congress passed the lifting of such restriction only for the end of the current fiscal year with some clarifications, specifying that the reprograming must not exceed the amount of $39,000 and only pertains the supplementation of personnel budget for the President's Office, the Public Information Office, the Office of Personnel, the Office of Environment and Emergency Management-- Office of the Director, the Office of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Office of FSM Insurance Board, and the Office of National Archives, Culture and Historic Preservation from any of the personnel budget line items in the Executive Branch for FY14.  
Personnel budget shortfall also occurs in personnel budget item for Members of Congress. Speaker Dohsis Halbert, in response to an informal question by a certain Member, said that the Congress Budget Officer has assured him that Members will be able to get their pay check this Wednesday. How Congress Office addressed existing budget shortfall in Members salary has not been made public yet.
In spite of some positive actions in addressing the shortfall, employees from the affected offices have been informed by their superiors that they will not be able to get their pay check on September 24th. For certain staff of the OEEM, this will be the second pay period that they will not get paid as the fiscal year fades out.
Congress will resume meeting tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to progress action on scheduled items, including a number of Congressional resolutions deferred from today's meeting.
For inquiries on this report, email markapito@gmail.com, or call the FSM Public Information Office at 320-2548.

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