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Fono approves $1.05 million for LBJ, more in works

fili@samoanews.com

This past week has seen the Fono move quickly to pass appropriation bills funding LBJ Medical Center's operations before LBJ's new fee hikes go into effect on Monday.

Yesterday, the Fono approved a supplement appropriation for LBJ Medical Center, after the House approved on Thursday, the Senate bill appropriating $253,000 for hospital operations. The bill is to be funded from estimated general fund revenues for fiscal year 2012, effective immediately upon passage by the Fono and approval from the governor. The bill was registered yesterday in Fono journals to be transmitted to the governor for review and approval.

Earlier this week the House approved another Senate appropriation bill totaling $1.6 million, $800,000 for LBJ operations and $800,000 for ASG matching funds for the Federal Emergency Management disaster projects.

Yesterday, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie appointed the Senate Conference Committee, chaired by Sen. Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson with members Sen. Velega Savali Jr. and Lualemaga Faoa, to meet with their House counterparts to iron out the final language of a Senate bill (S.B. 32-26) allocating $3 million to be paid directly to LBJ and funded from the ASG Workmen Compensation Account.

Gaoteote ordered the committee to meet Monday with their House colleagues for discussions. However, by the time yesterday's Senate session ended, the House, which had held its session at 8:30 a.m., had adjourned for the weekend.

The conference committee was called after the Senate rejected several House amendments to S.B. 32-26 reflecting the $3 million as a loan, to be repaid by a new 2% wage tax. After the loan is paid off, 50% of revenue collected from the wage tax would go to LBJ’s off-island medical referral program and the other 50% would go into the ASG general fund.

The Senate insists the $3 million not be a loan but a direct payment to LBJ, who is in dire need of a quick cash-infusion.

The Senate also unanimously approved, in yesterday’s  session, a non-binding House Concurrent Resolution calling on the LBJ board of directors to cancel or postpone the new fee hikes that are to go into effect on Monday. (See yesterday’s front page story for more details on the resolution.)



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