‘Annual’ Senate bill to hike salaries for gov and lt. gov introduced
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A new Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono and Togiola T.A. Tulafono, was introduced on Tuesday seeking to increase the annual salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor, and the effective date of the proposed hike in salaries for the two leaders is in 2026.
Meanwhile, the Senate approved yesterday the governor's nominees to the Immigration Board and the Commerce Commission — the local government’s regulator for public transportation.
GOV/LT. GOV SALARIES
Earlier this year, during the First Regular Session of the 37th Legislature, Soliai, along with Sens. Alo Paul Stevenson and Satele Aliitta’i Lilio introduced legislation to increase the governor’s salary from $85,000 to $150,000 and the lieutenant governor from $75,000 to $125,000. This measure remains pending in committee, with one hearing held so far.
But under the new bill introduced Tuesday, the salary increase proposed is $105,000 for the governor while the lieutenant governor is proposed at $95,000 a year. And the effective date is the “first day of the next Administration in 2026.”
Similar to the earlier legislation, the new bill’s preamble provides some explanation for the reasoning for proposing to increase salaries of the governor and lieutenant governor that are set by law.
According to the preamble, in additional to their regular duties and responsibility, COVID-19 has increased their workload exponentially from managing the coronavirus task force, to dealing on a daily basis with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to dedicating more support for the ASG Medicaid Office, the Health Department and LBJ Medical Center.
(Samoa News notes that Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale, who is also the current acting governor while the governor is in Hawaii, chairs the COVID-19 task force.)
“The health and welfare of our people have now taken over as our #1 priority and is now pushed to the forefront of their list of priorities,” the preamble states, noting that the governor and lieutenant governor “are essentially on-call at all times of the day and night while our territory focuses our energies and resources in preventing COVID-19 from reaching our shores.”
The bill is assigned to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The Senate’s new bill comes at a time when the government has implemented a new pay scale, which includes hiking the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour.
As previously reported by Samoa News, there have been past efforts to hike salaries of the two leaders of the executive branch but without any success. The last unsuccessful move, came in August of 2019, during the 36th Legislature, when the former Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga submitted legislation, which included a provision to hike salaries of the governor to $100,000 and the lt. governor to $85,000 with an effective date of Jan. 3, 2021.
That bill ended up been automatically defeated when the 36th Legislature officially ended in the Fall of last year, without any action taken.
Through a unanimous vote yesterday the Senate confirmed the governor’s nomination of Fanene Edda Wyberski – whose new term would expire July 2024; and Samu Tusitala — whose term would expire July 2025, to the Immigration Board.
Fanene, the current board chair, is now officially returned to the board, after the House gave its endorsement this week, while Tusitala’s confirmation hearing in the House is some time soon.
For the Commerce Commission, the Senate also unanimously approved yesterday Rep. Ape M. Asifoa for the Western District; and Manu Talamoa for the “At-Large” member.
The votes for Immigration Board and Commerce Commission followed separate confirmation hearings yesterday morning.
Commerce Commission nominees, Fale Uele for the Eastern District; and Lago’o Aloalo Olo for Manu’a District, weren’t able to make the confirmation hearing — as one nominee was out sick while the other is off island.
The House has scheduled confirmation hearing for these nominees next week.