Hafa adai and tirow, greetings to the great people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, all our retirees, and to the PSS family.
Yesterday I wrote a letter to the retirees explaining exactly what has transpired that made me make a very critical decision to suspend or cease the retiree’s 25% from the government.
Three board members—Philip Long, Marylou Ada and Andrew Orsini—filed an injunction to ask the court that the government shall pay 25% of the total revenue, despite numerous pleas, basically begging them not to file the injunction while we’re experiencing COVID-19, our tourist numbers going down, and the fact that we’ve always worked well with [Board of Education] chairperson Janice Tenorio, vice chair Sgt. Major Herman Atalig, and Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada.
We continued to have a strong communication and we continued to give our appropriated amount to PSS. We have never been short and we have always made sure to take care of what the Legislature has appropriated for PSS.
Since I got on board as a lieutenant governor and your governor, not a single year have I ever cut PSS short on what was appropriated by the Legislature.
We all met as a leadership, PSS board, the PSS attorney, the Legislature speaker, their attorney, Senate president, our attorneys, and the Attorney General and we all had an agreement that whatever the actual collection was, that I would continue to give PSS their 25%.
We all agreed and a week later, the three board members—again, Philip Long, Marylou Ada and Andrew Orsini—decided to go ahead and file the injunction after numerous pleas to please not file the injunction because it would definitely jeopardize our retirees’ 25%.
While we agreed that we are going to address the court opinion for fiscal year 2021, they still decided to go ahead and file the injunction.
With that said, what they are requiring is I pay PSS 25% of the $43 million that the government has to pay the Settlement Fund; $43 million times 25% is roughly $10.7 million.
The government pays retirees roughly $14 million every year and they want to tack 25% on top of that. Again roughly $3 million, that equates to $14 million.
So I have a choice at this point, give PSS $14 million based on what the three board members want, or give the retirees $14 million.
I have no choice at this point.
But I am here again pleading with the three board members. If you drop the injunction, I will be able to pay our retirees their 25% for the remaining of the year as well as next year.
They can blame me, they can blame anything they want, even some of the community, or some of legislators, but I have never, not once, cut short the retirees’ pension and in fact, I have given them a couple of bonuses and I have never shortened our government’s transfer to PSS on what the Legislature has appropriated.
So, today, I ask again that, if they, the three board members, drop the injunction I will be able to pay the retirees 25%.
To everyone that’s listening I will again be clear, I’ve always been supportive of PSS, teachers, counselors, principals, bus drivers and that’s why I have never cut short what was appropriated by the Legislature.
Even when the deficit was up, I still never cut PSS.
If you look at the chart that I provided, it shows what was appropriated and what was transferred.
To chair Janice Tenorio, vice chair Sgt, Major Herman Atalig, and PSS Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, I thank you for protecting both PSS and our retirees.
When I say PSS, you continue to ask please transfer this for our teachers, our principal and for our students. I have always worked with you and I am saddened that it took the three board members to make this decision despite both of you board members pleading as well.
I apologize and I thank you for your support. For supporting our PSS family and as well as understanding what it takes to preserve the payment and the pension of our retirees. Thank you for your partnership.
Ralph DLG Torres is governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.