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Soliai calls for separate budgets for Senate, House

Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono has called for lawmakers to consider separating the annual budgets of the Senate and House of Representatives after years of the Fono’s annual budget being in the red at the end of a fiscal year.


Soliai’s made the suggestion at last Friday’s final day of the Fono joint budget committee review. With both members of the Senate and House present, Soliai suggested that lawmakers consider splitting up the Fono’s budget, giving the House and Senate their own budgets to control.


Every year, he says, the Fono faces an overrun and each chamber blames the other for the overrun. Splitting up the budget will show in the end, the cause of the overrun he says.


Joint Budget Committee co-chair Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao chairman of the Senate and Appropriations Committee says the budget document sets up funds for each chamber including salaries and office allowances for lawmakers, with the Senate President signing off on Senate expenditure and the House Speaker for House expenses.


He also says that the recommendation by Soliai will be presented to the Fono leadership.


Soliai says this is an important issue for the joint budget committee to consider not only for now but for future budgets.


The Fono had amended the final budget for the new fiscal year, giving itself a hike of $985,000 bringing the total budget of the Legislature to $7.69 million. The Fono had originally submitted a $7.1 million budget but it was reduced by the administration down to $6.7 million with Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie telling lawmakers last week that the Fono is a separate branch of government and should have sufficient money to carry out its work.


Gaoteote says the Fono encounters a budget overrun every year due to insufficient funds and at times, a supplemental is needed to cover costs for the Fono.


A complete report on Saturday’s budget vote in Monday’s issue.