While close to $7 million in ASG windfall money was available to help the cash-strapped LBJ Medical Center and pay two court judgments, the Togiola Administration instead submitted bills to hike taxes and fees on business licenses as well as increase excise taxes for beer, alcohol and tobacco, said Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie at yesterday’s Senate session.
ASG Office of Budget and Planning director Malemo Tausaga confirmed during a Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday that ASG is getting additional revenue for the new fiscal year in the amount of $6.8 million.
As previously reported by Samoa News, this source of funding is the money not yet pledged, but held in the escrow account for ASG from the national Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
Gaoteote repeated to his colleagues much of what was brought up during the hearing on Wednesday:
1. This money should have been presented to the Fono for appropriation, but instead it’s being included as a funding source for FY 2013, while the current fiscal year is not yet ended.
2. It was pointed out to the Togiola Administration last December that this money could be used as a funding source for the hospital, which was facing financial problems, but nothing happened.
3. This money could also pay the two court judgments totaling more than $300,000 pending in the Fono — but instead, the administration wants them to be funded with increased fees for business licenses and hikes in excise tax — which are opposed by the Senate.
He then called on the Senate budget committee to work on finalizing the appropriate funding source for the two court judgments.
Gaoteote also said that another issue raised with his office by senators is the final budget for the American Samoa Power Authority. He said the Senate continues to maintain the Fono has the final say in approval of the budget for ASPA, which is a government entity, and therefore subject to Fono oversight on spending and budget.
He said that when the time comes for the FY 2013 review, debate and approval, the Fono will make its decision when it comes to ASPA’s FY 2013 budget.
The FY 2013 budget book is currently being printed at the ASG Print Shop and is expected to be submitted to the Fono in the third week of August.
During yesterday’s session the House unanimously endorsed a House Concurrent Resolution conveying the deepest and most sincere condolences of the Fono and the people of American Samoa to Tom Drabble and Chande Lutu-Drabble on the recent passing of their daughter, Christine “Tina” Michelle Drabble-McCormack.
The resolution, sponsored by Reps. Va’amua Henry Sesepasara and Larry S. Sanitoa, also pays the “highest tribute to her many contributions to her family and the people of American Samoa and further recognizes her for her athleticism and career as one of the most prolific golfers in the territory”.
Tina passed away July 9th at the Mayo Clinic Hospice home in Phoenix, Ariz. at the age of 41 after a long battle with cancer. A family announcement states that her memorial service is set for Aug. 4 at 2p.m. at the CCJS church in Pago Pago.
According to the House resolution, Tina is one of the most recognized names in the territory. Her popularity is undoubtedly attributed to her success as a world-class golfer and her success came at a time when women athletes in the territory were scarce.
The resolution, which will be read during her memorial service, outlined her education background, her success in golf, including the time she was a youngster. It also states that Tina helped team American Samoa win a gold medal in the 1985 South Pacific Mini-Games in the Cook Islands.
Two years later at the South Pacific Games in New Caledonia, she again helped Team American Samoa win gold and she took silver in the individual competition. And in 2007 at the South Pacific Games in Samoa, she won individual gold and beat out professionals from all around the Pacific.
A year before the  Games, Tina was diagnosed with cancer and she “took the disease like she did golf: steadfast and never yielding to defeat,” the resolution says.
She “will be dearly missed. A daughter and heroine of American Samoa has been lost and it is proper for the territory to pay tribute to her life and the many contributions she made to her people,” the resolution says