|October 21, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—TOBACCO SETTLEMENT PROVISION IN CONFERENCE REPORT WHICH PASSES HOUSE. VETO OF BILL IS EXPECTED|
“The House and Senate responded positively to my requests to improve our tobacco provision,” said Faleomavaega. “When the Interior bill eventually becomes law, American Samoa will have the option to borrow $18.6 million from the United States at 5.4% interest, and pay back only principle and interest. This is a better financial arrangement than I think the local government can get anywhere else. The loan would be paid back from American Samoa’s proceeds from the 46-state tobacco legal settlement. But, I want to emphasize that this is not being forced on the local government. If ASG can make better use of the tobacco settlement money, it is free to do so. ”
“We also retained the funding for our government operations and construction projects,” continued the Congressman. “Given that this has been another tight budget year, I feel good about what we accomplished.”
The Clinton Administration has indicated that the President will veto the bill if it is presented to him in its current form. “I am expecting a Presidential veto of this bill,” said Faleomavaega, “but our funding will not be in question.”
There has been for some time a heated debate in Washington about how much can be spent in the current fiscal year without using money from the social security trust fund, but it now appears that some of the trust fund money will be used, at least for one more year. In an effort to reduce overall spending, some members of the majority party are proposing that either all appropriations bills, or at least all the non-defense bills, be cut across the board. “If an across the board cut is made, that would reduce the funding available to American Samoa in all categories,” noted the Congressman. “The amounts being discussed range from 1% - 6%. Because the President and many Members of both the House and Senate oppose this approach, I do not expect it to become law, but we must recognize that the possibility exists,” he continued.
The parts of the federal government which do not have a regular appropriations bill enacted into law are operating on an authorization which expires on October 29, 1999. There are 13 appropriations bills. As of today, six have been enacted into law, and four have been cleared by both Houses of Congress. That leaves three more, one of which is the Interior Bill. Some of the bills which have cleared Congress, and at least two of the three that have not, are expected to be vetoed.
The provisions in the Interior bill which are prompting the expected veto include the storage of mining wastes, renewal of grazing permits, the requirement that wildlife surveys be conducted before selling timber in national forests, environmental requirements related to hard rock mining, and the level of royalty payments to the United States on oil produced from federal lands and waters.
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