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Last updateWed, 19 Jun 2019 12am

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    Tuesday, June 18, 2019-9:16:11P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Bill to require legislative approval for spending $20M casino community chest fund

SENATOR Paul A. Manglona has drafted a bill that would require legislative approval for spending the $20 million casino community chest fund.

Manglona said the Legislature is trying to find ways to mitigate the impact of the administration’s $29.9 million budget cut proposal.

Paul Atalig Manglona

He noted that the casino license agreement requires Imperial Pacific International to “contribute to the community.”

On July 31, 2017, IPI and the CNMI Lottery Commission approved Amendment No. 5 to the casino license agreement that provided for $10 million worth of vouchers for utility bills within 60 days of the date of the license issuance, a contribution of $10 million on Jan. 1, 2018, and another $10 million on June 1, 2018 for education, infrastructure, healthcare, retirement benefits, and others “as may be determined in consultation with the governor.”

The amended casino license agreement also states that “beginning on or before Oct. 1, 2019, the licensee shall annually contribute $20 million to be used for community benefit programs towards, amongst others, education, scholarships, infrastructure, healthcare, retirement benefits, and others “as may be determined in consultation with the governor.”

But the license agreement also states that “all funds contributed by the licensee to the community shall remain under the possession and control of the licensee until distributed to selected programs or recipients.”

Manglona said IPI agreed to contribute significant amounts of money, but there’s no law mandating the casino investor to do so.

“There must a law so that everybody would know there’s money the government can use to address our dire situation,” he said.

He added that the Legislature should be given authority over the community chest fund which, he said, could help balance the next fiscal year’s budget.

Manglona’s still unnumbered bill proposes that “monies from the casino community benefit fund , while not part of the proposed annual budget, shall be identified and broken down indicating the various community benefit programs to be funded, in total or in part. This community benefit fund may not be expended unless specifically provided by law.”