The Legislature will not recall the $123.4-million budget bill it sent to Gov. Eloy S. Inos last week despite a fatal error of over $80 million for the NMI Retirement, but will instead pass a new bill correcting that mistake immediately after the fiscal year 2014 budget law signing.
Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) said the fiscal year 2014 budget measure has to be signed into law first before it could be amended “as soon as possible” or prior to Oct. 1.
The governor is now reviewing the budget bill.
The administration believes the $80 million difference in the Fund budget was an “oversight” on the part of the Legislature, press secretary Angel Demapan said.
The 2014 budget bill from the Legislature reflected a $4.030 million budget for the Retirement Fund, instead of $84.765 million.
If this is not corrected, the Fund will end up paying only a one full pension in fiscal year 2014, and that will only be on Oct. 15, 2013.
This would leave thousands of retirees without pension next fiscal year.
Demapan said the administration had initially asked the Legislature to recall the budget bill in its entirety to make the necessary correction.
“However, after discussion with the Legislature, the consensus to rectify this situation was that the Legislature will pass a separate measure correcting this deficiency. As such, the administration is drafting this bill for action by the Legislature,” the press secretary told Saipan Tribune.
House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) separately said yesterday that the House initially thought about recalling the budget bill to correct it, then ensure it passes both the houses once again and sent to the governor before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“But that would take longer than the other option, which is to have the existing budget bill signed into law and have a bill to amend that budget law passed and sent to the governor,” he said.
Besides, lawmakers may end up adding more to the existing budget bill if it is recalled, instead of just correcting the Fund budget.
The speaker said the $80 million difference was an “oversight.”
He said the over $84 million Fund operations budget is in the spreadsheet but was not reflected in the budget bill itself.
Demapan said the governor is confident that the Legislature will pass the amendment bill right away “because this is the consensus of the administration and the Legislature.”
Acting NMI Retirement Fund administrator Lillian M. Pangelinan brought this significant error to the governor’s attention last week.
The Fund pays out some $6 million in monthly pension benefits, or about $3 million every 15 days.
“If the budget bill passes in its current form, the Fund will only be able to pay a full pension on Oct. 15, 2013. Thereafter, no pension payments can be made for the rest of 2014,” Pangelinan told Inos.