AMERICAN SAMOA STANDS TO LOSE FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ROAD PROJECTS

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (March 1, 2000 – Samoa Observer)---An association for roads and transportation builders on the U.S. mainland predicts that American Samoa would lose more than $US 3.5 million in federal funding for road projects if legislation now before the U.S. Congress is passed.

Additionally, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) estimates that the legislation would cause the loss of a million jobs nationwide.

A spokesperson for Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS) said the Congressman is looking into the legislation before issuing a statement while Governor Tauese Sunia's Office declined to comment. However, territorial lawmakers are scrambling to make contacts with their congressional counterparts, when asked by the Samoa Observer for comments.

If the legislation is passed, lawmakers here say millions of dollars in ongoing and pending projects for upgrading American Samoa's infrastructure will be halted "at a time when only federal funding is available to make drastic improvements to the territory's main and secondary roads."

Several lawmakers are banning together to sign a letter to be transmitted to the U.S. Congress voicing their disapproval of the proposed law.

According to ARTBA, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) introduced legislation February 24 to repeal the 24 cents-per-gallon federal diesel motor fuels excise user fee to provide relief for truckers hit by higher fuel prices. The National Taxpayers Union, on the other side, is suggesting in separate legislation an "across the board" 10 cents per gallon reduction in all federal highway user fees.

The diesel motor fuels excise user fee generates over $8 billion per year in revenue for the Highway Trust Fund's (HTF) Highway Account.

Ten cents per gallon of the federal motor fuels excise fee generates over $16 billion to the HTF Highway Account. This revenue is dedicated under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) to surface transportation improvements. TEA-21 passed Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton in June 1998.

ARTBA, based in the nation's capital, provides representation for the U.S. transportation construction industry, which provides employment for 2.2 million Americans and generates more than $160 billion in economic activity.

An ARTBA analysis states that the total FY 2000 federal aid guaranteed under TEA-21 for American Samoa is $5.2 million.

However, under the two items of legislation, American Samoa stands to loose $1.5 million if the federal excise user fee on diesel fuels is repealed and $3.0 million if there is an "across-the-board" 10 cents cut in federal motor fuel excise user fees.

Other states and territories face large losses in federal funding with the overall possible loss of funding at more than $27 billion.

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

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