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Before action on any revenue bills, Senate wants info on ASG work force

Before the Senate makes any decisions on tax bills submitted by the administration, Sen. Galea’i Tuufuli says it's important that senators receive testimony from Human Resources director Sonny Thompson on the current status of personnel costs and total workforce since the start of fiscal year 2015, which commenced  Oct. 30, 2014.


Galeai had requested a hearing on this issue early last week and the Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee chairman, Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeo scheduled it for 8a.m. last Friday. However, the hearing was canceled and the Senate was informed that Thompson was attending an urgent meeting that same morning at the Governor’s Office.


During last Friday’s Senate session Galeai suggested that the committee make a new hearing date for Thompson— who is now scheduled to appear on Wednesday (tomorrow).


Galeai informed senators that the administration has proposed many tax revenue bills “but I believe the Senate first needs to find out as to where the government stands with its current workforce, compared to what was approved in the FY 2015 budget.”


He says the government is only into the first six-months of the fiscal year and there are already reports about the government having money problems with the General Fund. Additionally, senators have received reports about many new people being hired in government since the start of the new fiscal year.


Before the Senate makes any final decisions on the administration's revenue bills— many of them tax bills — Galeai says senators should get a better understanding about these issues, because local revenues and federal grants are reportedly being used to pay the salaries of newly hired people.


Galeai said he wants to see a Human Resources report outlining the number of workers hired by local funds, grants and other funding sources, budgeted in FY 2015 and the same information as of the end of last week.


He says the governor has voiced concerns over directors who have delayed drawing down grants, and it looks like the government is using all local revenues to cover these grants, without a solid effort to get federal funds first.


Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie agreed with Galeai’s concerns and said that there are only a limited number of Fono days left, but the governor has submitted several tax bills, which the Senate should have a full understanding of before any final decision is made on each measure. 


(As of yesterday, there are only ten-session days left in the current 1st regular session of the 34th Legislature).


Gaoteote said with these many new revenue bills, ASG directors should appear before the Senate to testify, especially for the fact that sufficient notice was given to the administration about this hearing.


“Unless senators get a better understanding of these measures, there will be no action on these revenue bills,” Gaoteote said.


Gaoteote noted that the Senate continues to show respect for the executive branch and understands there are times when an emergency situation arises, in which a director is unable to attend a scheduled hearing. He asked the senators to have patience and work together with the administration on these issues.