Governor credits U.S. Senate for minimum wage delay bill
Gov. Togiola Tulafono has sent thank you letters to two U.S.senators who introduced in Congress federal legislation which was approved last week by the U.S. House of Representatives delaying the next 50 cent per hour minimum wage increase until 2015.
The measure, Insular Areas Act of 2011, includes a provision to delay this year’s wage hike, the second delay since federal law in 2007 mandated the increase every year until local minimums reach the U.S. level of $7.25.
The wage delay bill was sponsored by U.S. Sens.Jeff Bingaman — chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and Lisa Murkowski — Ranking Republican member of the same committee.
Speaking on his Saturday radio program, Togiola said he sent last Friday the letters thanking the two senators for the their help in making this possible for American Samoa.
He went on to explain why the measure came through the Democratically controlled Senate instead of the the usual route through the U.S.House, which is currently controlled by the Republicans. Firstly, he said, moving a bill thru Congress dealing only with the delay in the minimum wage would have been very difficult and if this had been done, then the bill would still be pending.
The governor also said that attaching the minimum wage provision to another federal measure originating from the Senate gave it a better chance of survival and be more difficult to be rejected.
Although the U.S. House vote is important, Togiola says the only reason it was made easy for passage in Congress was the fact that it went through the Senate first, with the minimum wage tagged along in the measure. He reiterated that if the bill was just for the minimum wage, it would still be pending.
The governor also expressed his sincere appreciation and thanks to the hard work on this legislation by former Interior Department official Allen Stayman, who is a senior staffer on Bingaman’s committee.
30A FEDERAL TAX CREDIT
On another economic issue, Togiola says that during the time he was in the mainland for meetings, he received word that federal legislation on extension of the current 30A federal tax credit for American Samoa may be in jeopardy in the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, which had been holding hearings on tax reforms and other financial matters.
He then sought the help and assistance of Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, an ASG attorney in Washington D.C. and the two canneries to emphasize again to the Senate committee the importance of these federal tax credits to American Samoa.
According to the governor, the issue at hand is that the Senate is trying to balance the federal government’s budget deficit, which is in the trillions of dollars and the committee is looking to make any and all cuts necessary to balance the budget.
Togiola believes Faleomavaega and others are diligently working on this issue with the Senate committee to make sure that they understand the importance of these tax breaks for the territory.
Even with the minimum wage delayed, Togiola says this federal tax credit is still needed by the tuna canneries to remain competitive with foreign countries who have lower labor and production costs.
He said these are the types of federal support needed for American Samoa in order to be competitive,and without these tax breaks, there will be a major impact on the canneries, the industry that contributes greatly to the local economy.