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Acting Governor submits $12.65 million supplemental budget

Acting Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale
Bill includes money for funding ”previously discussed” for the Legislature

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Acting Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale has submitted to the Fono the Administration’s $12.65 million supplemental budget bill, which is to be funded from unobligated and unexpended revenue from fiscal years 2019 and 2020 to supplement the FY 2022 budget — which has already passed the Fono and was sent to the Governor’s Office.

The proposed supplemental budget — which identified 18 programs/projects for funding, was received by the Fono on Tuesday and is expected to be introduced this week when lawmakers reconvene today following a three cession day recess to save session days while awaiting the supplemental.

In submitting the supplemental, Talauega also informed Fono leaders in the cover letter that the proposal also includes “the funding that we previously discussed for the Legislature as well as funds for priorities of the Administration.”

And he requested the Fono’s support “in considering this legislation.”

The highest allocation in the proposed supplemental budget, is $2 million each for the American Samoa Medicaid State Agency to provide local matching funds; and the Governor’s Office for capital improvements, historic preservation and rehabilitation for executive housing.

The second highest allocation is $1 million for each of the following five programs/projects:

• Governor’s Office for COVID-19 matching funds;

• Department of Legal Affairs for legal fees in federal lawsuits in California, Hawaii and the Washington D.C - (in which ASG and officials are named as defendants);

• LBJ Medical Center to fund increased pay and personnel expenses for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and staff;

• American Samoa Community College to fund increased pay and personnel expenses for teachers and staff for FY 2022; and

• Legislative branch for which no explanation was provided. (But Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean had told senators that the allocation will fund a Senate bill — now in the House — that increases salaries of the governor and lieutenant, as well as hiking office allowances for lawmakers).

The supplemental also proposed $500,000 to the Health Department for increased pay and personnel expenses for physicians, nurses and allied health professionals. And the same amount allocation is budgeted for the Governor’s Office for three programs:

• to facilitate pay adjustments of ASG attorneys at the Executive Branch and judges at the Office of the Administrative Law Judge;

• for paying stipends for board members; and

• to provide for the Constitutional Convention including personnel, supplies and contractual services.

Other allocations in the proposal:

• $125,000 for court settlement of Tiumalu v ASG

• $300,000 to DoH for personnel and supplies at the Veterinary Clinic — (which has already been transferred from the Agriculture Department)

• $300,000 to Agriculture Department for food security programs

• $300,000 to ASG Treasury for purchase, transportation, housing and care for drug detecting dogs to be used by Customs division

• $150,000 to the Territorial Audit Office to pay for salary and related personnel expenses for a Territorial Auditor or Territorial Office staff

• $375,000 to Governor’s Office for bonuses to be paid to certain employees in multiple departments for their work on American Samoa’s COVID-19 response

• $100,000 to Port Administration Department for ship maintenance.

This Act shall become effective immediately upon being passed by the Legislature and approval by the Governor, due to the urgent need to assist in providing adequate funding for government operations, according to language of the proposed measure.

Some lawmakers who have seen a copy of the supplemental proposal said yesterday that they plan to question ASG officials regarding several expenditures  during committee hearings.