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Friday, April 25, 2014

‘NMI cannot sustain another bond float for land compensation’

Gov. Eloy S. Inos does not believe the CNMI could sustain another bond flotation for land compensation, following lawmakers’ suggestions as early as January to float another bond. This come even as a long-planned $60 million to $80 million pension obligation bond has yet to get off the ground.

“I don’t think we could sustain another bond issue for the purpose. Besides, we need a dedicated source of repayment and I’m afraid we don’t have flexibility at this point. We still try to dedicate some revenue source to handle the pension obligation bond that we plan to issue,” Inos said in an interview after an over three-hour Cabinet meeting yesterday on Capital Hill.

Lawmakers’ suggestion for land compensation bond comes years after the government floated $40 million for land compensation but used only $28.5 million of that to pay landowners in exchange for taking their property for public access road, wetlands and ponding basins. The rest went to the construction of an adult prison in Susupe.

The governor continues to urge the Legislature to send revenue-generating bills his way for consideration as source of repayment for the pension obligation bond as well as other government obligations such as the Retirement Fund settlement agreement, restoration of the 25-percent pension cut, and government health and life insurance plan.

Rep. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), meanwhile, reiterated yesterday his opposition to House Bill 18-171, which he said could allow for the use of bond proceeds to pay for land compensation, which is not what voters and lawmakers approved on separate occasions in the past.

HB 18-171 amends Public Law 18-12, which authorizes floating of up to $300 million pension obligation bond. The bill provides for the issuance of bonds other than general obligation bonds, and acknowledge the existence of an actuarial determination of the unfunded liability of the government to the Retirement Fund.

The bill, however, is not expected to be acted on in today’s House session, as members want to hear first from the Department of Finance later this week.

Over 300 landowners have yet to see a single penny for the government’s taking of their lands years or decades ago. Other families got paid anywhere between $100,000 and over $4 million.

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