Jess Taisague, 56, didn’t get a pension check in the mail on Tuesday, the same check he had relied on for 15 years for food, medicine, and other needs as a government retiree. Now he’s preparing to sue the CNMI government for diminishing and impeding his constitutional right to receive his pension.
“I lost my pension, I lost my health insurance,” Taisague told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Taisague is one of the 16 NMI Retirement Fund members who opted out of the settlement agreement in Johnson v. Inos.
Of this number, 13 are retirees and 12 of them didn’t get a pension check or any source of income as of Tuesday and Wednesday.
The other retiree, Rep. Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), chose to receive his salary as an elected official so he still has a source of income.
The House Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, is still reviewing a bill that would have funded the pension of those who opted out.
Rep. Mario Taitano (Ind-Saipan), author of the bill and a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said the appropriations bill would have set aside money to cover at least 75 percent of retirees’ pension.
“They can’t get more than what those in the settlement agreement is getting,” said Taitano, chairman of the House Special Committee on Retirement Fund.
On Tuesday, retirees who had not opted out of the settlement deal started seeing a 25-percent cut in their pension checks.
And those retirees who opted out didn’t get any check.
Taisague said yesterday he’s been consulting with a lawyer.
“Like I said earlier, I have been weighing my option to bring a lawsuit versus the government for impairing my retirement benefit. I know that the governor made an irresponsible statement during a townhall meeting that if you opt out, you will be on your own. It is inevitable right now to assert my constitutional right,” Taisague said.
Taisague worked in government for 23 years.
The Inos administration earlier said it understands that the 25-percent cut is a challenge for many, “but at least they are assured of a steady flow of income by way of the settlement agreement. The administration will continue its efforts to work with the Legislature to identify resources that can eventually be used to restore or make whole the retirees’ pensions.”
Those who opted out will need a separate legislative appropriation to fund their pension. There’s none passed and signed as of yesterday.