AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNMENT CONSIDERING $US 158 MILLION BUDGET

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (November 2, 1999 – Samoa Observer)---American Samoan lawmakers will return next week to pass the remaining $US 112 million ($T 302.4 million) of the fiscal year 2000 budget.

The special Fono session, called by Governor Tauese Sunia to convene on November 9, is estimated to last five days. The goal is to pass the full budget for the current fiscal year, which began October 1.

The Governor had gone ahead on September 30 and signed for $US 46 million in expenditures to allow the government to operate for the first three months of fiscal year 2000. This took place when the Legislature would not approve his government's budget proposal of $US 158 million ($T 426.6 million.) The alternative was that the government would have had to "shut down."

Lawmakers argued that the government failed to provide all the necessary information to justify some of the spending outlined in the budget. So instead of passing the entire budget for fiscal year 2000, the Fono passed only $US 46 million to operate for the first quarter.

The budget committee has conducted a review of the budget and called on the Executive Branch to release several necessary items of information to the Fono.

Before departing for the U.S. Coral Reef Initiative conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands last Friday, Governor Tauese urged lawmakers to pass the entire $US 158 million for fiscal year 2000.

The only other matter on the Special Session agenda is a proposal to pass a government land lease. This would pave the way for the construction of a three-story Centennial Building, marking American Samoa's 100th year relationship with the U.S. Government.

Governor Tauese returns November 8 in time for the special session.

House Speaker Aina Saoluaga T. Nua has acknowledged receipt of the Governor's communication and believes the Fono will be able to pass the final budget in five days. He noted, however, that more data are need from the administration, including revenues collected for both the Veterans Memorial Stadium and the Country Club.

"The Fono still needs more information from the Governor regarding the purchase of the Country Club but will deal with that issue when it comes up on floor debate," he added.

The Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Senate President Pro Tem Tuilefano M. Vaelaa, said last week the committee was prepared for the Governor to call a Special Session to approve the budget.

Governor Tauese Sunia, according to Speaker Aina, might address the Fono at the opening of the Special Session, since the final budget is to be discussed.

Speaker Aina neither confirmed nor denied speculations that the Budget Committee has cut the budget submission.

Parts of the budget that are likely to be cut by the Budget Committee are in the personnel area.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

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