$10 Mil proposed for LBJ off-island referral program
Gov. Togiola Tulafono is proposing a $10 million appropriation to fund the LBJ Medical Center’s off-island medical referral program, which is the same amount that the hospital is seeking from the government in it’s supplemental request for FY 2012 for this program. The hospital says it is needed to send patients off island for medical treatment not available on island.
According to the governor’s Jan. 13 letter to the Fono leadership, the $10 million appropriation is to be funded with identical measures submitted by his administration to the Fono during the first session of the Legislature, with three of those measures still to be acted upon by the Fono.
The proposed funding sources are: increase in the import tax on alcohol and beer; hike in annual business license fees in which 65% of the fees collected will go to the referral program; $2,000 corporate franchise tax; and the new wage tax of 4% (which is similar to the 2% wage tax that expired Dec. 31, 2011), according to the proposed bill.
The governor informed the Fono leaders that he is “re-prioritizing our need based on the financial crisis” that has presented itself to the LBJ and consequently, all of the people of American Samoa.
He said the off-island medical referral program is the largest portion of the LBJ’s supplemental funding request.
Due to the urgency of this important legislation, Togiola says his staff is available to discuss any clarifications and/or explanations required by this proposal and to develop further any and all funding sources for inclusion.
In a separate letter, also dated Jan. 13 the governor informed the Fono that “ASG is investigating ways in which we may assist our local hospital in both the short and long term.”
“Currently, our efforts have provided some respite for the hospital, but we continue to look for alternative sources for funding for ensuring the continuance of medical services at affordable prices for the population.”
He then reminded Fono leaders of “an aging project, a new Fono building”, which was allocated $3 million more than two years ago, and is not being utilized to support their original intent. The governor says that he intends to make a portion or all of the said funding available in order to meet the needs of the local hospital.
The $3 million was part of the $20 million loan that ASG received from the ASG Employees Retirement Fund. Other infrastructure projects were also allocated funds from this loan. Some lawmakers said last year that this $3 million could help LBJ.
SENATE APPROVE THREE BILLS FOR LBJ
During yesterday’s Senate session, senators unanimously approved in third and final reading three measures sponsored by Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie to provide supplemental appropriations for the hospital.
The first bill is a $3 million appropriation, funded by the Workmen’s Compensation Account, which was introduced last week Tuesday.
This is a bill based on one of the five alternative approaches the Senate President in a letter dated Dec. 12, 2011 wrote to Gov. Togiola Tulafono to address LBJ’s financial woes. The governor responded to Gaoteote in a letter dated Dec. 22 that he was not supportive of any of the five approaches, and outlined why.
The two other measures, introduced last week Thursday, are; $253,000 from the estimated General Fund revenues for FY 2012, which are made available as a result of the governor’s line-item veto actions; and $1.6 million from the FY 2011 surplus — with $800,000 to LBJ and $800,000 for the territory’s FEMA earthquake and tsunami relief matching requirement.
These bills now go to the House this week for their consideration and approval.
HOUSE INTRODUCES SUPPLEMENTAL BILL FOR LBJ
In the House yesterday, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale introduced a $2 million supplemental bill for the hospital, which is identical to a bill introduced last Friday in the Senate by Gaoteote. This bill is to be funded with interest ASG earned from the 1997 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.