$1.417M retroactive lump-sum payments for 350 employees OK’d

GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Friday signed House Bill 20-108, now Public Law 20-16, which appropriates $1,417,545 for the retroactive lump-sum payments owed to 350 active and inactive employees whose wages were frozen at Step 12.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Angel Demapan. An earlier version already passed by lawmakers was recalled by the House of Representatives after the attorney general noted that the measure did not identify its funding source. Lawmakers subsequently amended and passed the bill, which identified the Saipan casino gross revenue tax as the funding source for the proposed pay raises.

In signing the measure, Torres said, “It’s a great day for all civil service employees who have waited patiently, some for many years, for their retroactive lump-sum payments.”

He added, “This is a very important bill. The first batch we did, we appropriated $1.5 million, but for some reason, there were some folks who weren’t included so [the Office of Personnel Management] came back with a complete list. If we do miss someone else please come up and let us know so we can include you.”

The governor said although they appreciate the hard work of all the government employees, “this appreciation will not be possible if not for the growing economy.”

“Just for the record,” he said, “I know this is part of the obligation, but even if the law said we should pay, if the revenue is not available we cannot still pay that obligation. It is in the last couple of years that we’re seeing an increase in revenue so we’re moving forward and appreciating these employees whether they are active or inactive…. We will continue to pay our arrears as the economy grows and new businesses come in. These have allowed us to pay our obligations, including to the retirees. If our economy hasn’t grown this much there is no way we could meet these obligations. So, again, we would like to thank our partners, the community, the Legislature and the employees.”

The governor said he will ask the Department of Finance to expedite the processing of the checks so they can be disbursed this week.

“The more our economy improves, the more our employees will benefit from it,” he added.

Rep. Angel Demapan for his part thanked the governor for signing the bill. He also recognized the efforts of former House Ways and Means chairman and now Legislative Bureau Director Antonio Sablan for initiating legislative action through Public Law 19-75 which appropriated $1.5 million for the first batch of retroactive lump-sum payments.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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