The Budget bill passed the both the House and Senate last night authorizing nearly $61 million for fiscal year 2012 and containing some sweeping new amendments.
The Budget Bill, as passed, garnished a split vote in the Senate with a vote of 8 yes to 5 no votes. The five Senators that voted “no” included Sen. Whipps Jr., Remengesau, Chin, Oilouch and Baules. In the House, the votes were also split 6 yes, 2 no and 6 house members refusing to take a position by abstaining. The six abstaining votes were counted as yes votes. The two no votes were Del. Rafael and Nabeyama. Del. Isechal and Yangilmau were not present.
Tourists will feel the effect of the new budget with an increase in the hotel room tax to 12%. This tax now also applies to cabin rooms on a ship. There is also a 100% increase in the green fee collected on departure from $15 to $30. The budget allocates the monies collected from the “green fee” to be split, so that 50% of the funds go to the operation of the Protected Area Network while the other 50% is diverted for the improvement of the water and sewer system of the Republic. In fact, the first $200,000 collected shall go to Airai State for their protection of Palau’s main water source.
The bill also directs Social Security to deposit all funds received by the National Government that are designated as Medical Savings fund to be allocated as such and are not permitted to re-direct payments to the Social Security Fund as a priority as it has been doing under Social Security Regulation 1025.
The Budget also includes language legitimizing the President’s emergency expenditures as a result of the Ameliik Power plan disaster. The Budget specifically includes language that the President’s past expenditures were made in compliance with the House Joint Resolution that required the funds to be authorized and appropriated by the OEK. Notably, the legitimacy of the emergency expenditures is the subject of a pending lawsuit that was filed against the President by Alan Seid.
The Budget also includes language promising that the future proposed Supplemental Budget Act that will be submitted within the next 60 days will address the President’s 2011 over-expenditures, a matter that is the subject of another pending lawsuit filed against the President by five sitting Senators. The Budget Bill also recognizes that the President will ask the OEK to insert language into the not yet submitted “Supplemental Budget” to suspended the laws regarding Presidential reprogramming of funds.
The OEK accepted language, proposed by the President, which would allow the President to use grants imposed by foreign donors for purposes inconsistent with the intention of the grant, if both houses of the OEK do not reject his request within 20 days. After the 20-day period, the “inconsistent” use of the grant will have been deemed to be lawful.
Oceania Television Network – OTV