AG and Gov call for support on tax measures during cabinet meeting
Cabinet directors and Education Department officials have been called on to talk to their lawmaker to support the administration’s proposed revenues measures and other proposed bills submitted to the Fono that will help expand ASG’s revenue base providing additional money to finance the government now and into the future.
The call was made by ASG Revenue Task Force chairman, Attorney General Elesasalo Ale, and echoed by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during yesterday’s nearly three-hour cabinet meeting, at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, in which public school principals and other senior ASDOE officials attended.
Talauega gave a briefing on the proposals the administration has submitted to the Fono, saying that there are four specific new revenue measures. He asked cabinet members as well as DOE officials to talk to their respective lawmakers about the importance of these proposals that will among other things, provide additional funds for school improvements, teachers’ pay, and road repairs.
He said there is a big delay in federal funds being received and that there is a decrease in local revenue collections. Therefore, there is a need for ASG to find new revenues.
Among the new revenue bills is the 7% sales tax, which will also have language repealing the 2% wage tax — a tax paid only by wage earners, while the sales tax would be paid by everyone who purchases goods, according to Talauega.
He said American Samoa is older now and has come of age — and therefore don’t be afraid of a sales tax. The Task Force chair pointed out that “we did the bonds,” referring to the American Samoa Economic Development Authority bonds, which collected some $78 million in proceeds, and have helped ASG move forward with infrastructure development such as roads.
Talauega said that if any cabinet director disagrees with the Administration’s legislative agenda, through the governor, then to make time to talk with the task force to “make sure that you understand the importance of these measures” for the government and the community.
This prompted some laugher from the audience, but Talauega appeared very serious when it came to talking to directors, who disagree with the governor’s agenda.
Lolo supported Talauega’s call for cabinet directors as well as ASDOE officials present to talk to their lawmaker, who should know the importance of these revenues measures. The governor said some of the laws that the administration is proposing to amend have been in place for three decades, while the government’s financial needs have changed over the years.
“The biggest challenge for this administration is to expand our revenue base,” he said, adding that this can be achieved through the revenue measures submitted to the Fono. The governor again reiterated what he told the Fono on Monday that American Samoa must now depend on itself and less on the federal government.
He told directors, “don’t be afraid to make decisions that will be beneficial to the community”.
Other issues on the cabinet meeting agenda were the 2018 fiscal year budget update and the Manu’a Cession Day, or Manu’a Flag Day.
FY 2018 BUDGET UPDATE
ASG Office of Planning and Budget deputy director Aokuso Satia gave an update on the status of the final FY 2018 budget, which he says is being finalized and 90% of the budget submissions from ASG agencies and departments are already received.
If any department or agency wants additional money, over the ceiling already set by the governor, Satia said there isn’t any money left.
(The budget ceiling is 90% of the approved FY 2017 budget — for local revenues.)
Lolo pointed out that the budget book should go to the ASG Print Shop later next week and for all agencies to ensure that all their submissions are done by this Friday.
At the same time, they can submit a supplemental proposal for other needs of the department or office, and this will be provided to the Fono as well, Lolo said.
MANU’A FLAY DAY
Regarding the Manu’a Cession Day, which is July 16th and falls on a Sunday this year, Manu’a District Governor Laolagi F.S. Vaeao said it will be a one-day event set for next week Monday, July 17th on Ta’u island.
With the government’s current financial condition, Laolagi said the program is scaled back, with only the flag raising ceremony and other small events on the agenda.
While certain VIPs as well as the governor, will fly to Ta’u on Monday morning for the ceremony, the rest will be sailing on the MV Sili, over the weekend, according to information announced at the cabinet meeting.
The governor is expected to release soon an official general memorandum declaring Monday, an ASG holiday. The governor’s proclamation for Manu’a Cession Day is published in today, tomorrow and Friday’s editions of Samoa News.
Samoa News will report later this week on other issues from the cabinet meeting including the Governor’s Adopt-A-School Program presentation and the reason ASDOE officials were present yesterday.