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Fono allocated 2019 subsidy under Governor’s ‘Special Programs’ budget

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Legislature is getting $500,000 as a “subsidy” under the Special Programs budget category, overseen by the Governor’s Office, for the new fiscal year 2019 budget, according to budget documents.

An explanation in the Special Programs budget document states that this “funding has been approved by the Governor to assist and supplant the annual operation of the Legislature. It shall also provide financial assistance in major projects as set by the Fono.”

The Fono’s annual budget is 100% funded by local revenues and for FY 2019, its proposed budget is just over $6.91 million with 220 employees including lawmakers. This is the same FY 2018 approved budget for the Fono.

Personnel costs totaling $5.18 million, take up the majority of the Fono’s FY 2019 budget. Lawmakers’ office expense allowance is listed under the materials and supplies category. While the office allowance is tax free, the law also allows lawmakers to claim, if they choose to do so, this expense as part of their annual salaries. Annual salaries of Fono members including leadership remains the same.

Meanwhile, the FY 2019 budget bill was officially introduced last Thursday in both the Senate and House with budget hearings set to begin today and run through Aug. 31.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga explained in the FY 2019 budget summary document, that the ASG workforce for the new fiscal year is 6,702 compared to 6,555 in FY 2018 and this reflects a net increase of 147 that “can be attributed to federal programs and post-Gita new employment.”

Of the total workforce, 4,981 of them are career service employees while the rest are contract workers, according to data in the budget summary. The total ASG workforce is expected to be questioned by lawmakers during budget hearings as they have done in past years.