The Marianas Visitors Authority has expressed grave concern for House Bill 22-91 that would reprogram money from the department’s fiscal year 2022 budget to fund the bonuses for CNMI retirees.
During an MVA board meeting last Tuesday, MVA chair Viola Alepuyo said the bill, which passed the House of Representatives last week, essentially strips the MVA budget of funding that was already short to begin with.
Alepuyo informed the board that MVA is working on submitting a letter to the Senate expressing their concerns sometime this week or next week.
“At first, they stopped the hotel occupancy taxes from coming to MVA. Now they’re stripping us of budget monies that was already short to begin with. That’s a grave concern. We’re drafting a letter to express our concerns,” she said.
The MVA chairwoman noted that the bill would reprogram $800,000 from MVA’s fiscal year 2022 budget to fund the retirees’ bonuses.
Alepuyo explained to the board that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres initially tried to give $500 bonuses to CNMI’s retirees through the governor’s operating budget as well as Department of Finance.
“The [Settlement Fund] trustee advised, and the Attorney General agreed, that the governor couldn’t just remit the money to the Settlement Fund and what needed to be done was a joint resolution that had to be approved by both the House [of Representatives] and the Senate,” she explained.
Because it was advised that the governor could not just remit funds to the CNMI retirees, the Senate drafted a resolution that did not pass the House. In turn, the House drafted its own bill that reprogram funds from different agencies, including MVA, to fund the $1,300,000 needed for the retiree bonuses.
The bill passed the House last week and is currently with the Senate.
“The [Senate] made a resolution, the Senate approved it, transmitted it to the House, but the House had concerns about the resolution so they came up with their own version. What [the House] did was they introduced a bill last week Wednesday that would take funds away from various government agencies, and one of them is MVA. They would take $800,000 from our office budget to fund the $500 bonus. That bill has passed the House and is now headed to the Senate,” she explained.