Inos lays out options for $30M pension, accrued interest payments
Besides drumming up support for a bill that would repeal and reenact the Saipan casino law, Gov. Eloy S. Inos also told retirees and former defined benefit plan members early last night that he expects a casino license to be issued “within the very, very near future.” That will trigger the release of $30 million to immediately pay for deferred 25 percent pension and accrued interest on withdrawn retirement contributions.
At the same time, private citizen Leila Staffler urged the public to ask House of Representatives members to vote “no” to the repeal and reenact measure, House Bill 18-195, that’s up for a vote today. She said its passage would nullify or kill the referendum process that’s supported by over 4,200 people who want to vote on the casino issue in November.
Inos, for his part, assured that H.B. 18-195 won’t kill any referendum.
A crowd is expected to be at the House session at 1:30pm today—retirees and former DB plan members on one hand, and those who want to reject the casino law and place the question on the ballot instead.
If and when H.B. 18-195 passes the House today, the Senate will take it up during its session on Thursday.
“Speaking from the Office of the Governor, I can tell you this much: Barring any major, substantive concerns on the bill, I intend to approve that bill immediately,” the governor told retirees and former DB plan members at the Carolinian Utt in Garapan early last night.
Inos said that bill, once signed into law, will correct ambiguities and deficiencies in the Saipan casino law and “will pave the way for the payment of the 25 percent [pension cut], the payment of the accrued interest on the P.L. 17-82 withdrawals and if there’s any leftover from the first batch, we will start making payment for the other categories—medical referral, maybe land compensation, and so forth.”
House floor leader Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan), author of H.B. 18-195 and the casino bill, and Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) also addressed retirees and former DB plan members last night.
The “trigger” to the release of the $30 million now held in escrow is the Lottery Commission’s issuance of a license, according to the governor.
The application process for an exclusive integrated casino resort license on Saipan moved forward after Superior Court Associate Judge Wiseman denied last week an attempt to stop the government from issuing a casino license.
At 2pm today, the Lottery Commission chaired by Commerce Secretary Sixto Igisomar will convene again but a decision is not expected to be made as to whether a license will be granted and to whom.
The two applicants vying for a license to exclusively develop a minimum $2 billion integrated casino resort on Saipan are Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc. and Best Sunshine International Ltd.
The governor also provided options being considered on when and how the pension and accrued interest payments will be made once a casino license is issued and the $30 million deposit is released for those payments.
Inos said either the Finance secretary releases the payments, or the funds will be transferred to the retirement settlement fund to write the checks.
“We will review which one is efficient but we will do it either way,” the governor told the crowd.
He said the payments will be made on a “first in, first out basis,” meaning the ones that’s owed first will be paid first. They will be paid retroactively. For retirees’ deferred pension, for example, they will be paid retroactively from Oct. 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, or up to a certain date. One check will be written for that period.
After that, the payment of the deferred 25 percent pension will be either on a semi-monthly, monthly or quarterly basis.
The deferred 25-percent pension costs $15 million to $16 million, while the accrued interests on withdrawn DB plan contributions is about $8 million.
Inos is considering an option just in case there’s a shortfall in the distribution.
“One of the things that I will be asking the commission to negotiate with the developer is the ability to allow for additional advances in the event that we need more funds to make up for the required payments because, remember, after we pay the 25-percent restoration, we need to meet the interest for the 17-82 withdrawals and that I believe is somewhere within $8 million, and those folks need to be whole again,” Inos told the crowd.
Clyde Norita, spokesperson for the retirees last night, said just as other groups are organizing themselves, so do retirees and former DB plan members who are waiting for their deferred 25-percent pension and contribution interests.
“For many retirees, this is a matter of life and death. They rely on their pension. They want to get their pension in full,” said Norita.
Norita and Greg “Kazuma” Camacho are urging retirees and former DB members to also show up at today’s House session and ask lawmakers to pass H.B. 18-195.
“Seems like some people are playing around with retirees’ 25-percent pension. …We’re here to stand up to be heard,” he added.
Eugenio Borja, 85, said he’s looking forward to getting his full pension. He was among those at the meeting last night in Garapan.