State block grants, SS benefits restored
By: L.N. Reklai
October 4, 2016 (Koror) An impasse between House and Senate over the amendment to the language of Continuing Budget Authorization, was broken and RPPL 9-63 was signed into law yesterday.
“We are very happy that you (OEK) were able to resolve this issue and ensure that future Continuing Budget Authorizations will include State Block Grants,” expressed President Remengesau Jr. upon signing of the bill into law.
RPPL 9-63 reinstates payments of Social Security supplemental benefits and authorizes issuance of State Block Grants. The law also amended 40 PNC Section 327 to define State Block Grants as “regular budget activities of the national government” so that they will be included in any Continuing Budget Authorizations in the future.
Unable to reach a resolution by September 30 to amend RPPL 9-62 (FY 2016 Supplemental Budget) to include State block grants and $50 additional Social Security benefit payment, the Continuing Budget Authority under RPPL 9-62 went into effect as is on October 1, 2016.
Upon the Continuing Budget Authority going into effect, amending it would now be limited by the language of Article XII, Section 3(a) of the Constitution. Such language requires the President of the Republic to recommend emergency funding appropriation for OEK to act on.
President Tommy Remengesau Jr. in his letter to both houses on October 2, 2016, recommended that they take action to pass the bill earlier introduced by him to address the State Block Grants and Social Security supplemental benefits in order to ensure continuation of State governments operations and payment of social security supplemental benefits. He further urged in his letter to defer deliberations on other matters that may interfere with “passage of these essential, broadly supported provisions.”
The bill which took 2 days to pass in both houses, was rejected by both houses and went into conference committee. Conference Committee reports of both houses recommended adoption of the bill incorporating only the State block grants and SS benefit supplemental payments. Both houses adopted the reports on October 3, 2016 and President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed it into law on the same day.
“Differences can be overcome when it’s in the best interest of the Palauan people,” stated Senate President Camsek Chin on the differences between the Senate and the House over recent bills.
Governor Yositaka Adachi, Chairman of Governors Association, on behalf of all the governors expressed that “It is a big concern to the States because block grants represent considerable part of State budgets. We are all happy that the leadership can work together to ensure that the State governments continue operations.”
Speaker Sabino Anastacio concluded that such debates between both houses is a regular part of OEK process. “We worked through the weekend until today to reach a resolution. We have been blessed with a beautiful Constitution that makes for such allowances” he added. [/restrict]