AG delivers strongly worded message to cabinet directors
Cabinet directors as well as all sectors of government have been called upon by ASG Revenue Task Force chairman Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale, to support the Administration’s five revenues measures submitted to the Fono, as well as and also lobby their lawmakers for their endorsement.
Speaking at last Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Talauega delivered a very strong statement to directors who were also asked to share with the task force their views and opinions, instead of going to the media with criticism or dislikes about the governor’s proposals.
At the outset of his presentation, Talauega said five revenue measures are now before the Fono and these proposals are one of the initiatives by the Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga to improve the government’s economic base. He says a lot of research had gone into exploring all possible revenue streams to finance the government moving forward and this is the first time such a task has been carried out by an administration.
With the Fono set to reconvene next Monday, following a four-week mid session recess, Talauega called on cabinet members to talk to their lawmakers about the importance of these measures and he also asked cabinet members to support the proposals, which are from the Governor.
According to Talauega, the governor doesn’t need those who do not share their opinion and views, but later voice opinions in opposition elsewhere, including the media.
He said that if anyone has views and opinions, as well as recommendations to further strengthen these measures, he asked that they share them with the task force and the governor — and don’t hold back.
Talauega said there has also been a lot of talk in the community and many questions from the Chamber of Commerce. One of them is the 2% wage tax, which the administration is seeking to repeal and part of the 7% sales tax bill.
Under the 2% wage tax, Talauega said if a person makes $10,000 a year, $200 goes to the government annually. If the person makes $20,000 a year, that’s $400 taken out for the wage tax. He says many cabinet directors are in the salary bracket of $60,000 and up. And, if the annual pay is $60,000, that’s $1,200 taken out every year.
He said the problem with the 2% wage tax, is that only people who get paid over the table pay it, the rest don’t pay. So, if the wage tax is repealed the $200 or $400 or $1,200 is returned to the pockets of these workers.
Other revenue measures cited by Talauega is repealing of the 5% miscellaneous excise tax and restructuring the individual tax table starting next year, if enacted into law. And if it becomes law that means it’s a savings of about $250 — for the person claiming an individual, and $2,300 per taxpayer, married with family.
As for the sales tax, it applies only to retail goods, he said and noted that there are many needs of the government and there are many things that need to be done, but ASG lacks sufficient funding to carry them out.
For example, there is money for American Samoa in under federal Medicaid program, but the government does not have sufficient money for matching funds, he said.
Talauega pointed out that he has spoken to the private sector, and informed them that ASG needs $10 million to “function” every month, but ASG is unable to come up with that amount every month. (See Samoa News edition Aug. 4th for details)
Despite the shortfall, he said the government continues its service, although some services are not provided, due to the lack of funding. He pointed to what he described as a correction “fa’asaoga”, saying that the government is not “deficit spend[ing]” now — meaning, “we’re not spending money that we don’t have.”
Talauega again pointed out that the government is not “deficit spend[ing]” and the governor and the administration continue to monitor incoming revenues and spend only money that is available to the government.
He reiterated that the government needs $10 million a month but not enough is coming in and this is the reason why the governor wants to implement a sales tax, in which everyone pays their fair share.
At the close of his presentation, Talauega apologized to cabinet members if his voice was a bit strong in delivering his statement, but he again called on cabinet members to work together, and start by talking to their lawmaker(s) regarding the Administration’s revenue measures.
Lolo added, “Give the Fono our trust” on the revenue measures. He said the Administration’s work is transparent and the reason cabinet meetings are open to the news media to attend.
Samoa News should point out that exactly how much it’s going to cost each household, per month or per year, has not been explained by the Administration.
For example, in a LTE in yesterday’s paper, $2,000 per year is estimated to be the money the proposed taxes and fees are expected to cost per household in the territory. As the LTE said, that’s $2K less in our pockets, given to ASG to spend instead.
Of note, ASG has not said what it will be doing exactly to cut its expenses to meet its collection shortfalls; and the chair of the task force has only said that they are hopeful that this will be taken up at a later date, but it is not part of their mandate.