The House of Representatives passed legislation yesterday to address the remaining balances owed to retirees for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
It passed the measure after receiving word from the Governor’s Office that there is $8.6 million in supplemental funding.
Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) authored House Bill 20-116, a bill that seeks to appropriate $7.1 million in fulfillment of a previous stipulation and agreement of settlement to make minimum annual payments to the Settlement Fund.
The agreement provided that if 17 percent of the total annual revenue of the Commonwealth exceeded the minimum annual payment, the Commonwealth would pay the difference to the Settlement Fund.
Such was the case for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Total annual revenue for fiscal year 2014 was $30.9 million, while the minimum annual payment for the fiscal year was at $25 million and the total annual revenue for fiscal year 2015 was $28.2 million, while the minimum annual payment for the fiscal year was set at $27 million, leaving the government with a combined total debt of $7.1 million owed to the Settlement Fund.
“[We paid this] so that we would not jeopardize the payments to retirees’ pensions,” said Demapan, adding that if not immediately addressed, pensions may be withheld or “it may draw down from the corpus, but the corpus is meant to be invested so that it could lengthen the life of the retirement fund.”
“This required appropriation because this was 17 percent of additional revenues realized from [fiscal years] 2014 and 2015. We do not have the numbers for [fiscal year] 2016 because the audit is still ongoing,” said Demapan.
According to Demapan, the additional funding is from the casino generated gross revenue tax.
The Senate passed two previous appropriations bills reluctantly. According to most members of the Senate, Rota and Tinian seemed to have been forgotten. However, Demapan expects the Senate to support the appropriation bill this time since it also concerns the Rota and Tinian retirees.
“I was able to meet with the senators and they all agreed that we address this issue because we don’t want to compromise the retirees’ pensions,” said Demapan, adding that the Senate is going into session today to act on the bill.