Blanco: MPLT bill on $15 million loan needs 15 ‘yes’ House votes

Since it addresses a constitutional issue, the bill that would authorize the Torres administration to secure a $15-million from the Marianas Public Land Trust would require 15 “yes” House votes, according to House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan)

Blanco

He is confident, though, that the bill, authored by House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan), will secure enough votes at the next House of Representatives session to pass.

Fifteen “yes” votes translate to two-thirds of the House.

In an interview last week, Blanco said that everybody from both the majority and the minority sides feels that the MPLT funding can immediately jumpstart the economy.

Attao’s House Bill 21-44 pledges as security the interest income distributions from MPLT. It also authorizes the MPLT to withhold and to retain net annual distributable interest income starting fiscal year 2020 and beyond as necessary. It creates a credit facility to address bond obligations and retirement settlement fund payments.

The MPLT board has chosen to use the term “loan” instead of “line of credit” and set the interest rate at 7.5%, to be paid in five years. That means Attao will need to amend his bill to change the term “line of credit” to “loan” to reflect what the MPLT is more comfortable with. The Torres administration earlier referred to the amount it was seeking as a “line of credit.”

Last Friday, Attao set a special session for today, Monday, at 2pm, and H.B. 21-44, was among the items on the calendar. The speaker later cancelled the session mid-weekend; he did not indicate the reason for the cancellation.

House’s records, however, showed that four representatives—Richard Lizama, Ralph Yumul, Marco T. Peter, and Christina Marie E. Sablan—are either currently off-island or will be going off-island starting today, Monday, for personal and business reasons. The four earlier asked to be excused from all meetings or sessions.

Blanco is confident that the bill will easily pass in the House and go to the Senate as there are vendors that have not been paid and frontline workers that are still waiting for their partial payment.

“Once we infuse the money to the economy comes back as [business gross revenue tax]. It recycles,” Blanco said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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