The Senate and House of Delegates will hold a conference committee to iron out the differences between each chamber’s version of the supplemental budget.
Last week the House of Delegates rejected the Senate version of the supplemental budget where senators proposed to grant a total of over $900,000 to the Ministry of Health (MOH) to deal with the impacts of the coronavirus while the HOD supports President Tommy Remengesau’s proposal to infuse an additional $300,000.
The Senate also cut some funding proposed by the House of Delegates and the President including the $75,000 for the Saipan-Belau Bai Project, $200,000 appropriation for the Compact Chief Representative and Review Advisory Group.
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means, led by Sen. Mark Rudimch also raised its concern about the impact of the coronavirus in the economy and proposes that the government source its money from the General Reserve Fund instead of the Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee ((PPEF) in anticipation of the drop in revenue collection due to the coronavirus fears.
“Your committee would like to stress its mindfulness about the world economy and its commitment to ensuring that the Republic strongly withstands any of the effects that might be seen from COVID-19 and a potential decrease in tourism,” the committee said in its report.
HOD praised the President for proposing a budget that is “balanced, conservative, fair, fiscally prudent and responsive to the Republic’s needs.”
Both Houses however, supports the planned bailout for the beleaguered Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC) who has said that it will be “in danger” of going broke and shutting down after April 2020 f no help will come their way.
Both houses agree to appropriate the sum of $1.8 million for PPUC as a “reimbursable subsidy” that will be sourced from the government’s General Reserve Fund.
The government is also helping secure a concessionary loan to help PPUC’s finances in order.
House of Delegates increased its budget by $200,000 and added $50,000 additional increase in each state block grant across the board.
The HOD in their version also proposed policy changes to lock in a portion of PPEF for the Civil Service Pension Plan (CSPP). (Bernadette Carreon)