$15M found for retirees’ shortfall in 2018 from casino BGRT


The House Ways and Means committee is recommending passage of a bill that would set aside $15 million from the Saipan casino’s gross revenue tax funds to make up for a shortfall in retirees’ pensions in 2018.

House Bill 19-131, authored by Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan), originally intended to add the departments of Public Safety and Fire and Emergency Management Services, the Northern Marianas College, and the Northern Marianas Trades Institute and “the 25 percent pension payments to CNMI Retirees” as agencies or areas eligible under Saipan casino law for these casino gross revenue funds.

But, in adopting and recommending for passage the bill, the Ways and Means committee, in their Aug. 8 report on the bill, deletes NMC and NMTI from the list and the provisions for the retirees.

They deleted a provision to have the casino funds “cover any shortfall in the funding of the” retirees 25 percent pension.

Instead, they inserted a provision that “reserves $15 million of the casino business gross revenue.”

Because the CNMI government took up front the first and fifth years of the Saipan casino’s license fees, which fund these pensions, there will be no casino fee in the fifth year to fund these pensions in 2018.

The committee’s redrafted the bill so $7.5 million would be appropriated for years 2017 and 2018 “for use in 2018 to compensate the absence of the payment” of the casino license fee.

The bill also establishes a casino BGRT account separate from the general fund, where the funds in the account will not lapse and are not subject to fiscal year limitations.

As for removing NMC and NMTI, the committee explains that another bill, House Bill 19-52, which amends the same casino law statute to include NMC and NMTI was passed by the House earlier in the year and transmitted to the Senate for action.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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