FINAL U.S. BUDGET BILL PASSES CONGRESS,

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CONGRESSMAN ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA From American Samoa U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE November 19, 1999

INCLUDES MANY PROVISIONS FOR AMERICAN SAMOA

Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that an Omnibus Budget bill passed the House of Representatives on November 18th and the Senate on November 19th. The bill contained funding normally in four appropriations bills, including the Department of the Interior, through which American Samoa receives much of its funding. American Samoa may receive a very modest cut in its funding. If this happens, the cut will be at the same percentage as all other agencies and departments in the federal government.

"I am very pleased to report that the provision authorizing American Samoa to borrow money from the federal government, using its proceeds from the 46-state tobacco settlement, is included in the bill," said Faleomavaega. "And, as I had been informed, the final provision is better than the House-passed version, in that if ASG chooses to borrow this money, it will only have to pay back the money it borrows plus interest at a rate of 5.4%. There will be no fees and no extra charges.

"Although there was very little controversy over American Samoa's basic funding, there was considerable controversy over broader issues in the Interior bill and other bills," said Faleomavaega. "Most of these controversies did not relate directly to American Samoa, but in the end, to reach a final agreement, all departments were cut less than one-half of one percent from proposed FY2000 levels, and we are included in that. This was done to reduce the likelihood that taxes collected for social security will be spent on other programs."

Under the tobacco provision, American Samoa can obtain $18.6 million. Of this amount, $14.3 million could be used for debt reduction, and $4.3 million for government reform. "Forty-six states and territories are getting money from the tobacco lawsuit, and American Samoa is the only jurisdiction getting an advance from the federal government. Many people worked hard to make this an option for our local government, and I especially want to thank the Governor for his initiative and support, and the Fono leadership and the members of the Fono for their patience in withholding judgment on the proposal until it was finalized," said the Congressman.

Faleomavaega went on to say, "Once the President has signed the bill into law, I will be pleased to appear before the Fono to clarify the details of the legislation and to respond to any questions the members of the Fono may have.

"I have read that there is some concern with one section of the legislation which gives the local government the option to hire a management consultant to carry out the details of the provision. It is important to understand that the bill does not require that the government hire anyone. This section was added to give the local government additional flexibility in executing any agreement it may make with the Secretary of the Interior. If ASG wants to perform all the work, in-house, with current staff, and use all the money to pay off debt, it has the authority to do so," responded the Faipule.

"Some of the other persons who deserve credit for their support on the tobacco provision include Congressman Ralph Regula, Chairman of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Norm Dicks Subcommittee Ranking Member, and their staff Chris Topik and Del Davis. Congressman Jack Kingston, a member of the Appropriations Committee also stood up when American Samoa needed a friend at the committee level. In the Senate, Senators Slade Gorton, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, and Senator Daniel Inouye, a senior member of that Committee, made sure we got the best terms possible. Members of their staffs that were directly involved and fought off all attacks were Bruce Evans, Leif Fonnesbeck, Mark Fox, and Josie Puletasi. Mr. Cliff Humphrey of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and Ms. Jan Lipsen, the Governor's Washington representative played critical roles as well.

Each federal department (with limited exceptions) will have to cut its budget 0.38% from previously set FY2000 levels. If the cut is spread evenly across all programs within the Department of the Interior, American Samoa will receive $87,000 less for government operations, and $38,000 less in CIP money than has been previously announced. "The Secretary of the Interior has discretion to fully fund any program, or cut any program up to 15%, and I will do all I can to ensure that American Samoa is not cut any more than the across the board level of 0.38%," said the Congressman. The funding for our national park should be higher than FY99 levels, but may also be cut slightly from planned FY2000 levels.

"On the positive side," continued Faleomavaega, "the bill will provide an additional $400,000 per year for the Children's Health Insurance Program, and an increase in the rates that Medicare will reimburse the medical authority for services provided to our elderly residents."

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