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Gov vetoes $250K for LBJ, seeks funding for sports, Fale

fili@samoanews.com

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has vetoed the $253,000 supplemental appropriation for LBJ Medical Center but at the same time, asked Fono approval of a $100,000 appropriation to help send a local football team off-island as well as help the Department of Local Government complete the traditional Samoan fale at Utulei Beach Park.

In his Feb. 15 letter to the Fono leadership about the veto, the governor also noted that he is committed to preventing furloughs as well as returning rates and fees to affordable levels through the $3 million loan bill for LBJ. The bill was signed yesterday, as well as the loan agreement. (see separate story for more details).

While the financial issues for the hospital “have rightly become our top priority, we cannot allow ourselves to neglect other programs and initiatives that are worth supporting and also need supplemental funding,” he wrote.

REQUEST FOR $100,000

Also included in the letter is a new proposal from the governor seeking $100,000 to be funded with revenues available for current fiscal year 2012 due to the governor’s line-item veto of the FY 2012 budget bill — which was the same funding source cited for S.B 32-27 (the supplemental help for LBJ which was just vetoed). The total line-item veto amount came to $253,000.

Of the $100,000 the governor said $50,000 is to be allocated to the Samoa Bowl Committee to assist with providing transportation and accommodations for the American Samoa National Under 19 Football Team as they travel to Melbourne, Australia to compete in the Oceania Federation of American Football qualifier and to Austin, Texas to compete in the International Federation of American Football World Championship Tournament.

(Samoa News notes that attendance by the AS team in the football world championship tourney in Austin, Texas depends on whether they win the game in Australia that’s slated for Feb. 25.)

“The skills and athletic abilities of the athletes on the team are not in question,” he said. “These young men can compete on the world stage and at the highest levels. During the team’s fundraising efforts, members of our community gave from their hearts what they could to support our boys, but it simply is not enough.”

“Without our support these young men will be without a forum and will forego this extraordinary opportunity to showcase their talents to college coaches, scouts and recruits,” said Togiola, who urged the Fono for support “so that these young men will have the chance to further their athletic and academic pursuits.”

The local team is slated to depart tonight for Australia while the Texas tournament is scheduled to begin Jun. 28. Togiola has stated on his radio program that the government will provide assistance for the team.

This proposal also includes a $50,000 appropriation for the Department of Local Government (Office of Samoan Affairs) to complete the government’s traditional Samoan fale, or Faletele, being constructed at Utulei Beach Park.

“The beauty of the Faletele has already begun to transform the park and the area that surrounds it. It will stand for generations and perhaps in perpetuity, as a physical embodiment of the American Samoa Government’s commitment to its constitutional mandate to protect the ‘customs, culture, and tradition... of persons of Samoan ancestry’,” the governor points out.

Undertaking such a project requires that it be seen through to completion, said Togiola, adding that much traditional and modern expertise and many hours and resources have already been invested in this project.

“We cannot allow it to remain uncompleted” and this appropriation will be sufficient to provide for the completion of the Faletele and allow for its opening and dedication to occur on schedule, he said.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the government plans to dedicate this project during the 2012 Flag Day this April. Majority funding for the project came through the form of a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

CLOSING

In conclusion, the governor said he appreciates the work that the Fono continues to do “as we all strive to make adequate provisions for the... Medical Center and to find solutions to these difficult issues.”

“It is my hope however, that we will all recognize the value in supporting these other very important initiatives,” he added.



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