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Fono reconvenes with no budget to review

fili@samoanews.com

The Fono reconvened yesterday following a two-week mid-session recess and the first question raised during the House session was the status of the budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, 2012. The main reason for the recess was to save session days while awaiting the final budget from the Togiola Administration.

At yesterday’s House session Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen inquired with House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale as to when the Fono leadership expects to receive the FY 2013 budget.

Savali responded contact was made with the ASG’s Office of Budget and Planning and the Fono was informed the administration is looking at the end of this week or early next week for the budget to be transmitted to the Fono.

Faimealelei said he wanted to know the status of the FY 2013 budget submission because one of the requests he wants to make is for the House Health/LBJ Committee to review the LBJ Medical Center before the Fono gets to the budget.

He said there are many issues that would be best reviewed pertaining to the hospital prior to tackling the LBJ budget for the new fiscal year — and among those issues are the current financial situation, payroll, certain employees receiving a pay hike, and when LBJ expects to get a working mammography machine — which has been out of commission for about a year.

He called on the Health Committee to hold a hearing, so these issues can be addressed, saying that other lawmakers may also have their own specific concerns to be presented to the hospital before the FY 2013 budget for LBJ is debated. No hearing date is set yet on Faimealelei’s request.

Savali agreed and also suggested lawmakers conduct their own review, or through committee hearings, issues dealing with all ASG departments and agencies prior to any FY 2013 budget hearings.

SENATE SESSION

At the Senate, Sen. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) a hearing on two administration bills, which deal with court judgements submitted to the Fono last summer for review and approval.

Lemanu said witnesses for the committee hearing are ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i and Office of Budget and Planning director Malemo Tausaga.

The first court judgement sent to the Fono in July last year, appropriates $32,500 to settle a High Court judgment handed down in 2009 over a 2001 accident where a student was injured by a government vehicle around the Pago Pago Elementary School area. This case went through the appeal process and was finally resolved early last year.

The second judgement, submitted last August, appropriates $321,757 to settle a judgment against the American Samoa Government for breach of contract by failing to pay for construction services provided by Pacific International Engineering, Ltd. (PIE).

The judgment also includes court costs and post-judgment interest to begin to accrue at the statutory rate of 6 percent per year as of the entry date of the judgment, which was handed down in October 2010.

The funding source for both measures are bills pending in the Fono — one is to hike business license fees and the other is the new corporate franchise tax as well as an increase in import tax on beer, tobacco and alcohol.

These two tax bills were submitted by the governor’s office early last year to help with the government’s expected shortfall in revenues but senators during committee hearings were strongly opposed to imposing any new taxes on the public.

The Senate budget committee wants to find out from tomorrow’s hearing if there is any other ASG revenue source, or available revenues to fund these two measures.



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