AMENDED AMERICAN SAMOA SODA TAX INCREASE FALLS ONE VOTE SHORT

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By Vaaimamao Poufa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 11, 2000 – Samoa News)---The tax on imported soda will not increase for the moment, after the House fell one vote short in its attempt to pass a tax increase.

Eleven "aye" votes were needed but only ten were cast. Six voted against the bill, while four representatives were absent.

However, after the bill failed to pass, the House unanimously agreed with Rep. Malaetasi Togafau to have the bill reconsidered and it may yet pass and lead to what will most likely be a ten-cent increase in the cost of a can of pop.

The original bill requested by the Tauese Administration was for an increase in the import duty on soda cans from 4 cents to 17 cents.

Half the increase would have gone to personnel costs in the Department of Public Safety while the other half was earmarked for ASCC (American Samoa Community College).

The House amended the proposal by reducing the proposed new tax level to 10¢ per can, and changing the distribution of the funds.

The House Committee on Ways and Means suggested that ASCC should be removed from the bill and replaced, at a much reduced level, by the Department of Education' school athletic program.

After these changes were presented to the House last week, further modifications were needed after strong arguments by faipules Avegalio Aigamaua and Muavaefa‘atasi Ae, Jr.

The 10¢ tax was retained, but ASCC was reinstated and given some of the reduced monies earmarked for Public Safety.

Things got more confusing at that point, as some amendments were thought to contradict others, and Rep. Muavaefa‘atasi proposed amendments to make all types of soft drinks included in the bill, because he reportedly said that the bill only mentions 12 ounce soft drinks.

Before the vote yesterday, Muavaefa‘atasi told the House that he would support anything that is understandable, but he would not support the existing bill.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to samoanews@samoatelco.com.  For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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