Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) says the Senate is now working on identifying an alternate source of funding to subsidize the over $2 million needed to give retirees their $1,000 bonuses without taking what remains of the Marianas Visitors Authority’s budget as it could be catastrophic for the CNMI’s recovering tourism industry.
In a statement from Hofschneider, he said the Senate, in partnership with the Department of Finance, is looking into alternate sources of funding to fund the long-disputed retiree bonuses.
“[House Bill 22-95] is before the Senate…and we are working with Secretary of Finance David Atalig on identifying areas within the Executive Branch for possible source of funds. Some of us in the Legislature elect to ignore a mechanism, which is legally permitted, and instead prefers this option that could potentially be catastrophic to our recovery efforts,” he said.
Hofschneider explained that the Senate is looking for alternate sources of funding because the House of Representatives’ initial proposal to dip into MVA’s funding is “reckless,” given that the CNMI’s tourism industry hasn’t fully recovered yet.
“The House proposal to use MVA funds is reckless and the Senate leadership is dumbfounded that, at a time when we are trying to rebuild and restart our tourism industry, some of us in the Legislature have other plans,” he said.
Ultimately, the Senate wants to resolve this ongoing issue in a matter that does not jeopardize the progress the tourism industry has made, the Senate president stated.
“The Senate is poised to resolve this matter once and for all so that our retirees can get their checks soon and without jeopardizing agencies that are crucial and critical during these times,” Hofschneider said.
In a previous interview with Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan), she hopes that the House and Senate can soon come together to discuss a resolution that both parties will agree on so that retirees will finally get their bonuses.
“I still have hope that we can come to the table with our Senate counterparts at some point in the very near future. The House has done its part in passing not just one but two appropriations bills to support the retiree bonus. The House speaker has appointed conferees from the House and we still await action from the Senate,” she said.
In a previous MVA board meeting, the MVA unanimously agreed to oppose House Bill 22-95 that would reprogram over $850,000 from their budget to fund the retiree bonuses. MVA’s concern is that if over $850,000 is reprogrammed from their budget, they would have no choice but to shut down as this would completely deplete the agency’s operations budget.