ASG’s FY 2013 Budget submission close to $500 MIL
With a “significant spike” in the Enterprise Funds and additional new revenue from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement and collections, Gov. Togiola Tulafono yesterday submitted for Fono review and approval the government’s close to $500 million budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins Oct. 1 this year.
Lawmakers reconvened yesterday following another recess — this time for one week — to save session days to review the annual budget, which arrived in two separate books.
The larger of the two covers budgets for all departments, agencies and offices as well as special programs and special services. The second book, which is much smaller, deals only with the Enterprise Fund, comprising all revenue making ASG entities such as the American Samoa Power Authority, LBJ Medical Center and the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority.
In the cover letter for the budget submission, the governor informed the Fono leadership that the proposed FY 2013 budget total stands at $497.29 million which is 30% (or $114.35) million higher than the FY 2012 budget plan of $382.94 million.
Of the total budget proposal, $77.30 million is to come from local revenues; $23.02 million in Department of Interior Grant-in-Aid; $113.05 million in federal grants; $273.95 million under Enterprise Funds and $9.96 million under federal Capital Improvement Projects.
The largest hike in the budget, at $95.12 million — or 53% — is in the Enterprise Fund.
Togiola says the “significant spike of 53% in the Enterprise Fund is “directly attributed” to the American Samoa Power Authority’s “approved budget”. (See separate story on ASPA’s FY 2013 budget.)
Additional revenues from the tobacco settlement and tax collections “have fueled a 16% surge in local funds while federal grants climb 9% compared to the previous year,” he said.
The governor didn’t provide details on the government’s windfall under the tobacco settlement but Office of Budget and Planning director Malemo Tausaga told the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee early this month that ASG is getting $6.8 million in interest under the tobacco settlement.
This interest, first identified last year in a letter from Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie to the governor, is the money not yet pledged for use but held in an escrow account for ASG. Malemo told senators that the unpledged interest is part of the funding for FY 2013.
LOCAL REVENUE DISTRIBUTION
For local revenues, the governor explained that $50.31 million is allocated for the executive branch; $6.7 million for the Fono ($6.13 million budget in FY 2012); the judicial branch with $1.67 million and special programs with $18.61 million.
Overall, locally generated revenues for FY 2013 increased $10.44 million or 16% more than the previous fiscal year, he said, adding that this increase in revenue is largely attributed to the executive branch and special programs with 65% and 24% share of local revenues to fund their services and operation.
The Fono with 9% share of the local revenues receives the same percentage increase in funding, while the judicial branch with only 2% share of revenue generally maintains its previous threshold, said Togiola.
Of the total FY 2013 budget, the governor says 33% is earmarked for contractual services mostly due to the Territorial Office of Fiscal Reforms’ various projects currently in the pipeline, 31% to defray personnel costs, 19% for materials and supplies, 13% for all others budget category and 4% to cover equipment purchases and fund travel.
Of the total workforce of 6,295 for the government, 16% or 1,019 employees are on contract and 84% or 5,275 are long term career employees. Additionally about 2,518 positions or 40% of the total workforce are locally funded; 1,918 or 33% are funded through federal grants and the remaining 1,857 or 30% are funded through the enterprise fund.
“It’s comforting to say despite a difficult year, we are able to sustain our workforce at 6,295,” the governor wrote.
(Samoa News notes that Togiola has said on his radio program that ASG could slash about 2,000 jobs, but where would these people go for jobs he asked.)
“With an unwavering commitment to persistently plot paths fueled with aspirations and a desire to secure a prosperous future for our next generations,” he said, “I call upon all, to draw from the very depth of your being; through our varying convictions and disciplined beliefs, to firm our resolve towards common sense solutions, not bipartisan dissolution.”
“As the defining moment draws near where the change of guard is imminent, armed with a renewed sense of hope and shared responsibility; although at times throughout our journey we have weathered rough waters; yet, we progressively managed to stay the course — by embracing what is best for our people,” he pointed out.
In closing, Togiola urged the Fono to “continue to work together” with the administration “as we endure the budgetary process with confidence and fortitude...”
The governor also stated that he has instructed all directors from each department and agency that their appearance “is mandatory” before the Fono’s budget hearings. In past years, budget hearings for certain departments had to be rescheduled because directors were off-island and this has irritated lawmakers.
In tomorrow’s edition, the governor’s take on local economic conditions, which he claims are improving.