Let's have a little review of what law is. We should all be familiar with the process: the Legislature passes a bill and the governor signs it into law. What we are not familiar with is the legal concept of precedence. Only when a law is challenged in court and a judge makes a decision does the legal system have something to work with. For example, you leave a family party, unknowing that someone has left an open beer in the back seat. You get stopped by the police and you are arrested under the open container law (many states have this law, I don't know if we do). In court the judge finds you not guilty because a judge before him decided that some other person could not reach the open beer in the back seat, therefore because of that precedent you are free to go too.
Let's apply this to retirement! A big jump, I know, but follow along. Retirement was created and put into existence by law. It said that everyone who worked for the CNMI government had to pay into the system. This was forced on every employee, they had their money taken and they had no choice! The law also said employees who worked 20 years or more would get a fixed retirement until they die. It specifically directed that benefits could be increased, but not decreased. So now in a budget crunch, lawmakers want to violate the law and reduce the retirees' benefits. If our lawmakers break the law of retirement, then what precedent will be set? Can a retiree that has faithfully (not by choice, remember) paid into retirement the better part of their whole life (20 years or more) then say, “I don't have to pay any taxes because if the government doesn't have to follow the law then neither do I!” Can anyone then say, “I can steal from you because the government set the precedent that they can steal from retirement.” How far will it go?
The late senator Jesus Mafnas proved that retirees are the biggest voting bloc in the CNMI. I think it is time to reassert that fact and elect a group of people that follow the law. The fact that the retiree was forced to pay retirement for 20 or more years believing in the law that said they would not have their retirement cut should not even be considered for reduction in any budget crunch. Rep. Joseph Palacios is a true leader. He proposed to cut the number of Saipan legislators, not retirees.
No other person in or associated with the CNMI government has the same vested interest as a retiree. Although I am certainly not opposed to a review of retirees who have received benefits without paying for them for 20 years or more, I am opposed to any reduction of properly earned retirement benefits. Faith in the CNMI government is on the line here and we certainly do not want to be labeled with a spoof of Guam's motto, “CNMI, where America's bankruptcy begins!”