FOR PAYOUT FOR ILL PATIENTS/ MEDICAL REFERRAL:
Rep. Blas Jonathan Attao (Ind-Saipan) has authored a bill to appropriate $5 million from business gross revenue taxes collected from the Saipan casino for the CNMI government’s medical referral program.
Citing new reports where the exclusive casino license holder, or Best Sunshine International, Ltd., stated that they have paid about $27 million in BGRT to the CNMI government, Attao notes that the CNMI’s Medical Referral Program is a “qualified recipient” of funds from BGRT collections per the Saipan casino law, or Public Law 18-56.
“The Medical Referral Program has been under budgeted,” Attao writes in House Bill 19-182, noting a reliance on health care outside of the Commonwealth due to the lack of equipment and specialists and how government resources have been redirected for such treatment.
“The administration continues to reprogram funds within it authority for the Medical Referral Program and by doing so, departments and line item agencies have to be more flexible and creative as to how the limited funds available to them is to utilized,” the bill says.
“With the payment of BGRT…already in the Commonwealth’s coffers, it is imperative that necessary measures be undertaken to relief [sic?] the Commonwealth with its financial obligations and assist the Commonwealth in improving its services for the people of the CNMI and its visitors alike.”
The bill allots $3 million to payment of prior and current obligations of the Medical Referral Program, leftovers of which can be transferred to the other allocation of $2 million for the program’s personnel and operations.
The bill tasks the Department of Finance secretary to create a special account, or the “Exclusive Casino BGRT for the Medical Referral Program Fund.”
Attao has also authored a bill, H.B. 19-183, to appropriate $6 million from the Saipan casino law for the Public School System.
The bill notes PSS’ recovery from damage caused by Typhoon Soudelor, its utility obligations, and a projected deficit for personnel operations for this fiscal year with an increase in insurance premiums, among others, in justifying the appropriation.
The bill sets aside $1 million for payment of PSS debt to the local utility, $1 million to its Office of Pupil Transportation, $1 million for personnel life insurance costs, and $3 million for PSS personnel and operation costs provided that $50,000 be reserved for overtime payment of bus drivers due to ongoing double sessions of some schools.