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Senate to look into Rota’s share of Saipan casino license fee 

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AFTER a lengthy discussion, the Senate on Thursday agreed to look into the Rota share of the $15 million Saipan casino license fee collection.

Public Law 20-10 allots $2 million each for Tinian and Rota, and $11 million for Saipan from the $15 million annual casino license fee paid by Imperial Pacific International, but according to Sen. Paul Manglona the share of Rota “seems to be unreasonably held back,” and he wants to know why.

Manglona brought up the issue during the Senate session on Thursday, as he shared with the other senators his response to Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig’s statement that because Rota owes the general fund $331,709  the Rota Legislative Delegation cannot appropriate the amount for inter-island medical referral assistance.

The lone minority member in the Senate said Finance has yet to remit  the Rota share of the Saipan casino license fees from prior years.

The delay “is inflicting more suffering on our people,” Manglona said. He added that the Rota delegation, which he chairs, has been attempting to resolve this discrepancy for more than a year now. Meanwhile, he said Rota patients have not been receiving their stipends for several months now.

 

Sen. Paul Manglona speaks during the Senate session on Thursday. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Manglona then moved to place on the bill calendar for action Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao’s House Bill 21-76, which the House unanimously passed in April.

The bill proposes to repeal Public Law 20-10 and allot the $15 million Saipan casino license fee for the retirees’ 25% benefit payments.

Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider said H.B. 21-76 is still with his committee, Fiscal Affairs, which is waiting for comments from municipalities.

He said he does not see the urgency to act on the measure because the government has been paying 100% of the retirees’ pension.

He also noted that Imperial Pacific International has stopped its operation, “so it is irrelevant to act on the bill right now.”

Manglona said he is “worried” because IPI is seeking a 50% reduction in the license fee.

Hofschneider said lawmakers “should go out there and help the casino industry survive.”

Senate President Victor Hocog, who is from Rota, said he wants to find out why Tinian and Saipan have received their full shares of the casino license fee while Rota has not.

“How did it happen that one senatorial district was left out?” Hocog asked.

All the senators agreed to meet with the Finance secretary.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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