Retirees, NMC, NMTI benefit from casino BGRT


The House of Representatives has accepted a Senate substitute to a bill that initially sought to establish a separate account for casino-generated gross revenue tax for separate appropriations, to include retirees and educational facilities, among many others.

House Bill 20-99 SS1 passed the House on a 13-4 vote.

Minority leader Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) and Reps. Ed Propst (Ind-Saipan), Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan), and Blas Jonathan “B.J.” Attao (Ind-Saipan) voted against its passage, with some arguing that the body should act instead on House Bill 20-28 which has similar provisions.

During the Sept. 8, 2017, Senate session, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) and Sen. Justo Quitugua (Ind-Saipan) commended the House for accepting the substitute.

“The Senate made very substantive changes to…be sure that the Northern Marianas College and Northern Marianas Trades Institute are included [as beneficiaries],” said Palacios.

Currently, recipients of the casino-generated gross revenue tax funds are the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the Medical Referral Program, the Public School System, and the payment of land compensation judgments.

H.B. 20-99 SS1 seeks to directly re-appropriate the annual casino license fee of $15 million. Both Rota and Tinian would get $2 million each, while the remaining $9.5 million goes to Saipan. The remaining $1.5 million is appropriated to the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance Program.

A provision in the bill sets aside the first $22 million in casino-generated gross revenue tax to cover the payment of 25 percent of full benefits and bonuses of retirees from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

Subsequent casino-generated gross revenue tax was amended to include both NMC and NMTI as recipients.

“The government does not have the money to fully support our budget and that is the reason we are not able to implement [certain programs],” said NMC president Dr. Carmen Fernandez. “We are very happy about it.”

“We appreciate all the help from the government,” said Dave Attao, NMTI director of planning, budget grants, human resource, and instruction. “Our community needs the employees that we have now and NMTI has very limited [resources] so the more [resources] NMTI could build up for stability, the better.”

The bill now heads to the governor for enactment.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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