Sablan: CNMI retirees are not political pawns

Posted on Mar 01 2022

Rep. Christina Marie Sablan (D-Saipan), who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee, issued the following statement about the retiree bonuses proposed by the Senate during the House session Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022:

“Mr. Speaker and colleagues, members of the public, and especially our government retirees, the retiree bonus is not the problem. It is not the subject of debate. There is bipartisan support across this Legislature. We in the House unanimously supported the bonus when it was originally proposed at $500. And we support it now at $1,000.

“We know that so many retirees live on the fixed incomes that their pensions provide, and that these incomes do not adjust with the rising cost of living. We know that retirees need this help. The retiree bonus is not the problem.


“The problem is the rider that keeps getting attached to the bonus. The problem is the governor wants 100% reprogramming authority over the budget and he is once again using and manipulating retirees to serve his own political ends.

“Imagine that: this governor wants unlimited power over the public purse. After running deficits for six straight years. After we just impeached him for misspending public funds and abusing public trust. Six articles of impeachment for corruption. Commission of felony. Neglect of duty.

“After we reviewed and exposed thousands upon thousands of pages of government records documenting illegal first-class travel, theft, extravagant reimbursements, 85 boating trips using public safety resources, and utilities at two private residences plus water for the commercial piggery.

“After we have just learned about more lucrative sole-source contracts that this administration has awarded for weekly Zoom conferences, an app that no one seems to know about, and a ridiculous amount for a single company to sanitize public buildings.

“After we have just learned about the outrageous fees that taxpayers are paying for his army of attorneys to fight the JGO investigation and impeachment.

“The sad, hard truth is that this governor cannot be trusted with public funds. But he will try to take more control anyway and he has no qualms about using retirees to do it. After all, he has done it before.

“But retirees are not political pawns. They should never be used as political pawns. Where is the logic in giving this governor more power over public funds? Where is the justice in that? There is none. It would defy common sense and conscience to do so.

“The fact of the matter is that had the Senate simply passed the bill that we sent them many weeks ago, the retiree bonus would be on the governor’s desk by now. The facts also show that this House has identified the funds and properly appropriated for the retiree bonus not just once, but twice, with the bill that Chairman Manglona has introduced today.

“My message to the governor: cut the politricks. Stop using the retirees. Stop using the Senate. Live within your means. Respect the reprogramming authority that the law already gives you. Let’s give the retirees the bonus they have been waiting for, and let’s do this the right way. No riders. No games. No 100% reprogramming. No more politricks.

“And while we are helping retirees, let’s also help everyone else who needs help. Expand premium pay to the public and private sector employees who have been excluded so far. Issue the new local stimulus to the thousands of qualified taxpayers and dependents who really need this help.

“The governor doesn’t have to wait for the Legislature to act on the new local stimulus and premium pay. He can do it right now. He is the expenditure authority for American Rescue Plan Act funds. What is he waiting for?” (PR)

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