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ASPA rate hike in effect today, Gov blames Fono

Gov. Togiola Tulafono now appears to be blaming the Fono for the government’s failure to pay its utility debt, which is edging towards $10 million.

An ASPA one-page report to the Fono  states that as of Sept. 11 — total outstanding and current — owed by ASG is $10.49 million and of this total $8.74 million is outstanding: current for ASG; $631,359 includes outstanding and current for ASCC; and $1.11 million is outstanding and current for LBJ hospital.

Some lawmakers have said this money is needed by ASPA, who is moving forward with the implementation of the next rate hike effective today. The rate hikes affect monthly customer service charges, base water rate, ground water contamination abatement charges, plus solid waste collection fees.

A caller to the governor’s weekend radio program complained about the new hike. Togiola responded that it's never the wish of the government and the power authority to raise fees.

He said his administration is still talking with ASPA on ways to address their financial needs. He also said the government utility debit is heading towards $10 million, which is money ASPA can use to fund its operations and if this debt is paid down, maybe the rate hike could be halted.

Togiola then said that there are revenue measures from his administration still pending in the Fono, which has yet to act on them, while there are only three days left before the current Legislative session ends.

He says these bills would provide new revenue for the government to fund operations as well as pay other debts. He says if the Fono had approved them, there would be money to pay ASPA.

Togiola didn’t specify the bills pending in the Fono, but last year, the governor submitted legislation to hike excise tax on beer, alcohol and tobacco; increase business license fees and a new $2,000 a year corporate franchise tax. But as far as the Senate is concerned, these measures are already defeated.

The governor last week sent to the Fono an appropriation bill seeking just over $900,000 to pay overtime of ASG workers, who are due these payments following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. Funding sources for this appropriation are listed as revenues collected from a  hike in excise tax and  increase in business license fees. (see front page story on this appropriation)