The House of Representatives unanimously passed last week a bipartisan bill that would allocate $1.3 million in local funds as a bonus for government retirees.
All 20 House members voted “yes” to adopt House Bill 22-91, HD1, that proposes to amend the Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2022 (Public Law 22-08) to establish a business unit and fund the retirees’ bonus.
House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) introduced a floor amendment to include the Office of the Public Auditor’s fee, which is an additional $13,000 to be reprogrammed and reappropriated.
Manglona said the new amount that will be reprogrammed and reappropriated would be $1,313,000 and not $1,300,000. No one opposed Manglona’s technical amendment.
Manglona said that, on Dec. 14, 2021, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres submitted a request to the Legislature to allow reprogramming of funds for the sole purpose of funding retirees’ $500 bonuses. He said Torres proposed to take funds from the governor and lieutenant governor’s discretionary accounts and also from the Department of Finance.
The lawmaker said that, on Dec. 15, 2021, the Senate adopted Senate Joint Resolution 22-05, which approved the Torres’ request to create a new business unit and to reprogram $1.3 million from the general fund to pay for the retirees’ $500 bonuses. However, at the House’s last session, vice speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) raised some concerns about Senate Joint Resolution 22-05.He said the concern is that without a clearly identified funding source, they cannot allow this reprogramming of funds from local resources and use of the American Rescue Plan Act or any other federal resources to back these accounts.
“As we all know, payments to pension funds are not allowed under the ARPA rules and guidelines,” Manglona said.
He said the House leadership wanted to allocate local funds from clearly identified funding sources.
The lawmaker said that, under House Bill 22-91, HD1, they propose to amend the fiscal year 2022 budget act by reappropriating funds that were line-item vetoed and by reprogramming funds from the governor’s discretionary account, Office of the Governor, and the Marianas Visitors Authority.
Manglona said in total, they have identified $1,300,00 for the bonuses and $13,000 for the 1 percent OPA fee.
He said on of use of ARPA money to supplement the shortfall in local sources, they want to ensure that they do not put the government at risk of any violations to the ARPA rules.
“We realize and acknowledge all the hard work our retirees have put into bettering the lives of our Commonwealth and we wanted to reward that by doing it in a fiscally responsible manner,” Manglona added. “This legislation, House Bill 22-91,HD1, as presented by this body, is the rightful avenue in getting the 25% to the retirees.” (Ferdie De La Torre)