Am. Samoa Senate Moves To Approve Supplemental Funds

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Senator Galeai wants treasurer to confirm source of money

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, August 28, 2013) – American Samoa’s Senate has moved forward for expeditious approval of the $1.1 million supplemental appropriation of FY 2013 to cover an expected overrun for the Fono in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2013.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao had scheduled a 9:30a.m. hearing Monday this week to hear testimony from ASG Treasurer Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili on the funding sources, which are the individual income and corporate taxes.

However, the hearing got underway about 45 minutes early after other committee hearings scheduled for that morning were completed early. One of the senators contacted the Treasurer about the hearing and was told by Pili that he was in the middle of an important meeting and had planned to attend the 9:30 a.m. Senate hearing.

(Samoa News understands the important meeting dealt with U.S. Department of Education officials who are on island to discuss with the American Samoa government (ASG) the issue of the high risk status.)

Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli was the first to address the committee saying that the funding source of any money bill is very important and the bill clearly shows it is corporate and excise taxes. He says the supplemental will cover the expected overrun in the Fono budget for the current fiscal year, and it's important the measure is passed.

His statement was supported by other senators, who all moved to approve the bill in committee and report it to the full Senate for a vote in second reading.

Laolagi said he is not opposed to any statement by the committee, but he believes the Senate should hear verbal testimony from the Treasurer to confirm the funding source. He said he wants to protect the Senate and its work by making sure that ASG witnesses are called to provide testimonies necessary to clarify any issues.

Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono said he agrees with the senators call to move the bill forward and he also agrees with the need to hear testimony from the government. He did point out that the Senate can find out at a later time the cause of the projected overrun, but the measure still needs to move forward for final Senate approval.

In the end the committee approved the bill and reported to the full Senate membership, who also approved it Monday in second reading. It was also Monday that the House version of the supplemental was introduced in the Senate.

The Senate version of the bill is expected to go through a third and final reading today, while the House version will go through its second reading. The Fono will need to finalize one version of the supplemental before submission to the governor for his signature.

No government witnesses were called to testify during last week’s review of the supplemental.

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