SAIPAN – By a vote of 6 to 1, the Senate on Thursday passed the bill to amend Public Law 21-3 which allows the central government to borrow $15 million from the Marianas Public Land Trust for emergency disaster relief and recovery costs incurred after Supertyphoon Yutu.
Of the seven senators present, only Sen. Paul Manglona voted against the passage of Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao’s House Bill 21-71.
Senate Floor Leader Justo Quitugua and Sen. Frank Q. Cruz were absent.
H.B. 21-71 now goes to the governor.
In an interview after the session, Manglona said he voted no because there are questions regarding the CNMI government’s financial status and expenditures that remain unanswered.
He said it has been more than two months since he sent a letter to the Department of Finance, which, he added, has not responded despite his “many follow-ups.”
Variety was unable to get a comment from Finance.
“I cannot in good conscience support this legislation,” Manglona said. “I know, for example, that $20 million should already be available since last year from the casino community benefit fund. Another $20 million should be paid by Imperial Pacific International this coming October for a total of $40 million. And the $15 million in casino license fee was due earlier this week."
Tens of millions of dollars, the senator said, are due from IPI for gross revenue tax.
“I just want to hear from the Department of Finance and the Lottery Commission about the status of these funds. They keep approving amendments to the casino license agreement without requiring that IPI meets at least these financial commitments,” Manglona said.
Co-sponsored by other House leadership members, H.B. 21-71 addresses the concerns mentioned by then-acting Gov. Arnold I. Palacios when he signed P.L. 21-3 last month.
MPLT said it will draw down the $15 million only once the bill becomes law.