The House Ways and Means Committee is starting its review of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ recommendations for the allocation of the Saipan casino gross revenue tax collection.
With a total of over $38.5 million up for appropriation, only $16.55 million would be appropriated due to a $22-million earmark provision in recently enacted Public Law 20-10.
The $22 million would be held in a special account to pay for this year’s retiree pension bonuses and 25 percent of pensions that were withheld from government retirees.
Of the $16.55 million that is up for allocation, Torres recommends that $2 million of that go to the Public School System.
Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview with Saipan Tribune that Torres’ communication is merely a recommendation of how the money should be divided and his committee need not follow Torres’ recommendations word for word.
“We owe PSS some $9 million from…previous appropriations we’ve enacted, so I’d like to see that we give that particular amount to PSS and then work on an additional $3 million to help support some of the unfunded obligations they are requesting for,” said Demapan.
Previous appropriations from the House—House Bill 20-108 that addressed salaries owed government employees that got stuck at Step 12; House Bill 20-103 that addressed the land compensation debts of the CNMI government; and House Bill 20-116 that addressed the balances the CNMI government owed the settlement fund for fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2015—appropriated over $36.6 million altogether.
The CNMI Constitution provides that PSS is entitled to 25 percent of “general revenues,” which include all appropriations allocated by the House of Representatives.
A quarter of $36.6 million is a little over $9 million—the amount Demapan infers is owed PSS.
“At this time, I’m working on reconfiguring the proposed distribution to see how best we can accommodate PSS’ request in the amount of $12 million,” said Demapan.