Senate introduces bill to increase salaries for Gov & LT
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A Senate bill seeking to increase the annual salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor was introduced during Saturday’s session, and the effective date of the proposed hike in salaries of the two leaders is in 2026.
Sponsored by Sens. Tuipine Fuimaono, Alo Paul Stevenson and Satele Aliitta’i Lilio, the legislation seeks to increase the governor’s annual salary from $85,000 to $150,000 and the lieutenant governor from $75,000 to $125,000.
The bill’s preamble provides some explanation for the reasoning for proposing to increase salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor that are set by law.
According to the preamble, in additional to their regular duties and responsibility, COVID-19 has increased their work load exponentially from managing the coronavirus task force, to dealing on a daily basis with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to dedicating more support for the ASG Medicaid Office, the Health Department and LBJ Medical Center.
“The health and welfare of our people have now taken over as our #1 priority and is now pushed to the forefront of their list of priorities,” the preamble states, noting that the governor and lieutenant governor “are essentially on-call at all times of the day and night while our territory focuses our energies and resources in preventing COVID-19 from reaching our shores.”
It also says that the duties and responsibilities will continue to increase and be precedent as the world moves forward with all efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
And “due to reasons stated above, it is fitting to raise the salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor to become effective in the next administration,” the preamble states.
Provision of the bill states that this Act becomes effective “the first day of the next administration in 2026.”
The bill is assigned to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, whose chairman Sen. Utu Sila Poasa has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday in which Human Resources director Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo is requested to testify.
Hearing on the salary hikes for the executive branch leaders will follow after the committee hearing on a Senate Resolution to review Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga’s Feb. 5th memorandum, which orders the roll-back of pay adjustments made without justification in the budget as well as converting contract workers to career service employees without going through the merit process — since Jan. 1, 2019 to the present.
The DHR director and three others ASG officials are scheduled to testify during the hearing on the resolution.
There have been past efforts to hike salaries of the two leaders of the executive branch but without any success. The last unsuccessful move, came in August of 2019, when the former Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga submitted legislation, which included a provision to hike salaries of the governor to $100,000 and the lt. governor to $85,000 with an effective date of Jan. 3, 2021 – for what would have then been the next administration.
However, the House amended the bill increasing the governor’s salary to $120,000 and the lt. governor at $100,000. Another amendment was for the bill to become effective immediately after being signed into law.
The Senate tabled its version of the bill along with the House amended version, while at the same time public complaints spiked over the bill, which in the end never made it out of committee in the Senate and was automatically defeated when the 36th Legislature officially ended in the Fall of last year.
Lolo — in proposing the pay hike — pointed out that salaries of the governor and lt. governor haven’t changed in many years, while purchasing power has decreased as inflation has increased.
“In order to account for inflation, the salaries of both must be increased,” he wrote to Fono leaders at the time.