Governor: We’re fulfilling our promise

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres said his administration and his predecessor, the late Gov. Eloy S. Inos, have fulfilled the promises made to the retirees.

In an interview after a status conference in federal court on Wednesday, Torres also thanked the Legislature for prioritizing the government’s obligations to the retirees.

He said lawmakers “have appropriated funding that we need to move forward to make sure we comply with the settlement agreement and that we pay on time.”

Citing the improving economy, the governor said it is now easier to comply with the settlement agreement.

Under the agreement that settled retiree Betty Johnson’s class action against the CNMI, the government must make minimum annual payments each year to pay 75 percent of the full benefits of the class members.

As of Sept. 2017, there are 3,035 settlement class members, 72 of whom are active CNMI government employees.

“We are meeting our projection and the fact we are paying more than what the settlement agreement requires means that our economy is doing good,” Torres said, referring to the government’s restoration of the 25 percent pension cut based on the availability of funds.

“As we saw last year we even provided a bonus to the retirees,” he added.

“We do acknowledge the retirees’ hard work in the past and it’s our obligations that we make sure we fulfill our obligation to them so that they can sleep at night knowing that their pension fund is not in jeopardy.”

As for the concern raised by Settlement Fund trustee Joyce Tang, who warned against the risks of the CNMI government’s reliance on the Saipan casino revenue, the governor said the gaming industry creates a ripple effect.

“Property values are increasing and more tourists are arriving which benefits hotels, restaurants, stores, their suppliers and vendors, building owners, landowners and other businesses,” the governor said. “You may say the casino is just one investment but the ripple effect it brings is huge.”

At the status conference hearing on Wednesday, District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood noted that the CNMI government is working closely with the Settlement Fund trustee.

In her presentation, Tang reiterated the importance of the CNMI government’s $1 million weekly payments, saying it allows the Settlement Fund’s investment to remain intact.

Besides Tang, Governor Torres and Department of Finance Secretary Larissa Larson were also ordered by the court to appear at the status conference.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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