With CNMI government retirees bound to receive 25% less of their pension come April 15, legislators are proposing solutions to ensure such a predicament would not happen again moving forward.
House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (Rep-Saipan) is one of those eyeing a legislative solution.
Attao is the author of House Bill 21-76, a bill that aims to repeal Public Law 20-10, and that would guarantee the 25% of the retirees’ pension through a set amount of $15 million collected from the annual casino license fee, instead of from the casino gross revenue tax collections.
P.L. 20-10 designated the casino GRT collection, which are susceptible to fluctuations, as the source of the retirees’ pension, while the more stable license fee collections get allotted to the senatorial districts, among others.
Attao’s bill states that “funds from the casino GRT are inconsistent and possibly even insufficient to cover the 25% pension for all the CNMI retirees”. Further, it proposes that the law that took the collective $13 million of the casino license fee allotted to the senatorial districts must be repealed to secure the 25% funding of the retiree pension.
The bill, however, is not a reaction to the impending pension cut, but rather, a reiteration of the need to ensure that money to cover the 25% of the pension is secured. In fact, Attao introduced such a legislation as early as 2015, during his first term as a member of the House of Representatives. “It is something that I have worked on when I first walked into the Legislature as a member of the House, so that we can prevent anything like this from happening… The first bill I introduced was H.B. 19-21,” he said.