House speaker wants Torres to make official reported figures on casino taxes
House Speaker Ralph Demapan (R-Saipan) has asked Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to make official or “identify” the reported $47 million in gross revenue tax paid out by the Saipan casino for this fiscal year, so that these funds can be divvied up in appropriations by the Legislature, according to a July 14, 2016, letter Demapan sent to Torres.
Citing Saipan casino law provisions, Demapan said the gross revenue tax generated from the casino shall be appropriated for specific purposes, listing LEAC Rate subsidy, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the Medical Referral Program, the payment of land compensation judgments, and the Public School System, as agencies that could receive these funds per law.
Demapan said the Commonwealth Casino Commission has advised the Legislature that the casino license holder, or Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, has paid a gross revenue tax in the amount of $23,274,450 for the first months of fiscal year 2016.
An additional $24 million, he said, can reasonably be anticipated for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.
He notes, though, that these revenues were neither identified nor appropriated by Public Law 19-08, or the 2016 budget law.
“In order for the Legislature to appropriate these funds for any of the specified purposes, the Constitution and the Planning and Budgeting Act require that you identify these funds as available for appropriation,” Demapan wrote. “I respectfully request that you identify $47,275,450 of the gross revenue tax generated from the casino licensee as being available for appropriation” pursuant to the casino law.
“The administration is in the process of putting the figures of the current and projected revenue from the casino’s BGRT,” said the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in a statement to Saipan Tribune, when sought for comment yesterday.
“This week, we will remit the figure and provide an amount for the Legislature to appropriate,” it added.
Some lawmakers, though, say these funds don’t need to be identified as the casino tax funds are already earmarked to the provided agencies and that all what’s needed are the “numbers” of dollar figures allotted to each agency.
“Apparently, it shows that the speaker is not reading his bills,” Rep. Ramon Tebuteb (Ind-MP) said, noting that the speaker references Public Law 18-56, the Saipan casino law, which he authored. “The casino law BGRT is already earmarked. Land compensation, PSS, LEAC, so forth… The speaker is saying identify this BGRT, because the BGRT goes there.”
“…That’s already earmarked in [Public Law] 18-56. [PL] 18-56 is simply saying that BGRT is coming from the casino is already fixed, earmarked into these five areas. I don’t know what he’s trying to say to identify what’s already earmarked. That’s why I’m saying obviously he is not reading his bills,” Tebuteb said.