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Despite fewer employees Legislative budget remains the same

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —The Legislature’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget totals just over $6.91 million — which is the same amount approved for FY 2019, although there are fewer employees for FY 2020, according to the government budget documents.

The Fono is also being allocated a $500,000 subsidy from the Governor’s Special Programs budget in FY 2020, after the Governor approved this funding to assist and supplement the annual operations of the Legislature.

The Special Program budget states it shall provide financial assistance to major projects “as set by the Fono.”

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had approved the same subsidy amount for the Fono in FY 2019, with the same purpose.

According to the FY 2020 budget document, FY 2019 had 220 positions, or workforce members, but the number was reduced to 216 in proposed FY 2020 budget. The budget document shows that some current positions show “zero” amount — due to “no funding for FY 2020.”

Positions in the Fono’s budget include the current 18 senators and 21 House members. Annual salaries for the Senate President and House Speaker are $30,000 each; $25,000 for each lawmaker; and $20,000 for the Swains Island Delegate.

Lawmakers also get an office allowance, which is not taxed, unless the lawmaker elects to claim the allowance as income. The allowances are $40,000 each a year to the Senate President and House Speaker while $30,000 per annum is allocated to each member of the Senate and House — including the Swains island delegate.

The Fono’s budget breakdown shows over $2.6 million allocated to the Senate; more than $2.5 million for the House; $887,000 for the Legislative Reference Bureau and $863,500 to the Legislative Financial Office, according to the ASG budget document.

Of the total proposed Fono budget, a large percent - $5.18 million - is for personnel services, followed by $1.24 million for materials and supplies and the rest for travel and “all others”.

In accordance with the Constitution and local law, the Fono convenes for 90 days out of a year in two separate 45-session days.