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Governor vetoes $1.6 Million appropriation for LBJ

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has vetoed the $1.6 million appropriation bill which provides $800,000 to the LBJ Medical Center and the rest of the money as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) matching funds for the 2009 disaster.

The most pressing issue for the Fono was to get some additional funding to the hospital and Togiola, in his letter to the Fono leadership disapproving the bill, says he is “keenly aware of the financial crisis that has befallen” the hospital.

He said ASG and LBJ officials have been working “on immediate solutions” to the hospital “short term and long term needs that are based on sound fiscal policy and practical solutions to basic but critical problems.”

While appreciative of the Fono’s willingness to assist the hospital in any way possible, the governor points out that the $800,000 will only cover two weeks’ worth of personnel costs.

“If you factor in all other costs to run the hospital, this amount will have a most short term effect on a very large problem,” the governor said and noted that LBJ “will be in the exact same position after this appropriation has long being spent.”

As to the FEMA matching funds, Togiola said American Samoa remains current with its percentage share of expenditures that have been made to date for the territory’s recovery from the Sept. 29, 2009 earthquake and tsunami.

“While the recovery effort progresses, I assure you that American Samoa will remain current for the foreseeable future,” he wrote.

The governor was also concerned with the funding source, which is ASG’s $1.6 million surplus from fiscal year 2011 as claimed in the government’s financial report received by the Fono late last year.

While the government spent less than what was received in FY 2011, the governor said the surplus “was subsumed by continuing obligations which ASG already had accrued” and therefore the $1.6 million is not a “true funding source as contemplated by law.”

“Additionally, as your preamble in the bill points out, ASG was not able to make subsidy payments to authorities in 2011 because of the accrued deficit we faced in 2011,” said Togiola, who hopes the Fono understands the concerns he has raised and looks forward to working with the Fono “on more permanent solutions for our territory’s problems.”

Meanwhile, the status of the other funding bill for LBJ totaling $253,000 already approved by the Fono and sent to the governor is unclear. Also unclear is the fate of the $3 million supplemental appropriation approved last Thursday, which arrived at the governor’s office last Friday morning.