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ASG FY 2021 budget finally signed into law

Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga
10% increase from approved FY 2020 budget

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga last Thursday signed into law the American Samoa Government’s fiscal year 2021 total budget of $465.95 million — a 10% increase from the approved FY 2020 budget of $424.20 million.

The budget bill, approved by the Fono more than a week ago, covers the entire FY 2021, which started on Oct. 1, 2020 and runs through to Sept. 30, 2021.

“This approved budget allows for the continued operations of ASG but most importantly, grants us the means to execute plans for the betterment of our people and advancement of our territory,” Lemanu wrote in a Feb. 11th letter to Fono leaders after signing the budget bill into law on that same date.

“We share a mutual commitment to serve the people of our territory and our collaboration is evidence of this,” he noted. “We must continue to foster a spirit of cooperation between the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch.”

Lemanu expressed his sincere gratitude to the Fono “for your vigilance in preparing and submitting of this budget bill. Your due diligence during this Legislative session is greatly appreciated.”

Among the funding sources, for the FY 2021 budget bill, is $110.16 million from local revenue; $134.72 million in Special Federal Grants; $210.79 million under Enterprise Funds (which includes the budgets for the semi autonomous agencies); and $10.28 million for Capital Improvement Projects (CIP).

Under local revenues, tax collection makes up the largest pool of ASG funds, with a projected $71 million for FY 2021.

A new government report circulating at the Fono shows that ASG collected more than $17.53 million in total taxes between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 - with Individual taxes the highest at nearly $7.14 million; followed by over $5.44 million in “Excise Tax: All Other”.

In his State of the Territory Address to the Fono on Jan. 11th, the governor said revenue collections have met projections as proposed in the FY 2021 budget. He explained that preliminary statement of revenues, expenditures and change in fund balance reflect a collection of revenues total at more than $31.47 million as of Dec. 31, 2020

A handful of lawmakers had voiced concern during the Fono Joint Budget Committee hearing with local revenue projections for the new fiscal year, that it might not be met, but in the end the majority agreed to endorse the budget bill.

The FY 2021 budget submitted by the Lemanu Administration last month is identical to the one submitted by the previous administration last September, during the 36th Legislature, which amended the bill down to funding levels from the FY 2020 budget.

However, then-Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga disagreed with the Fono’s amendments, creating a budget-impasse between the two branches of government, and resulted in the government operating under an executive order — issued by Lolo — covering the first quarter of FY 2021, from Oct. 1, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021, using FY 2020 funding levels.

Prior to signing the FY 2021 budget bill into law, the government was operating under a continuing resolution until midnight of Mar. 5th, submitted by the Lemanu Administration, on Jan. 3rd and approved by the Fono the following day during a special session.