Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he met with Governor Togiola, Deputy Assistant Secretary David Cohen, Office of Insular Affairs Director Nik Pula, as well as staff from Senate Finance, House Ways and Means, Senate Energy and House Resources to discuss IRS section 936. Mr. Dave Burney, Executive Director of the US Tuna Foundation, also participated via phone.
“The meeting was a success,” Faleomavaega said. “All parties understand where we are in this process and what we must do to move forward. As of today, the Tax Reconciliation bill is in conference and there is some discussion that that the bill may be divided into two bills.”
“While tax credits for American Samoa are only a small part of the $70 billion package under consideration, American Samoa continues to have the support of our friends in the House and Senate. During today’s meeting, we discussed the importance of getting a one or two year extension and the Governor raised the issue of his long-term proposal funded by the Department of the Interior.”
“I mentioned that at this juncture it is important for us to first get through conference with our short-term policy in place before proceeding to our long-term policy. We have agreed, however, that once we get through conference, we will certainly take a look at the Governor’s proposal and, as I have said from the beginning, we will also seek input from our canneries, boat owners, our local business community and the Department of the Interior.”
“I also continue to be hopeful that ASG will take a hard look at the findings of the American Samoa Economic Development Commission and present to Congress its plan for economic development. As I stated in my press release of April 29, 2006, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt approved my request in 1999 for $600,000 to establish an American Samoa Economic Development Study Commission. This was the first time during our Territory’s 106-year relationship with the U.S. that a Commission of this nature was established.”
“John Waihee, former Governor of Hawaii, served as the Commission’s Chair
and the US Department of the Interior was the federal agency responsible for the Commission’s oversight. But what made this Commission unique is that its findings were not based on the views of outsiders but rather the research emanated from local input. ASG and community leaders participated in this undertaking and the American Samoa Community College surveyed the public to identify the attitudes, aspirations and long-range goals of our community.”
“This historic study took two years to complete and, in FY 2000, the Commission submitted its report to the Secretary of the Interior and to the responsible Committees in Congress including the House Resources Committee and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Congress now awaits ASG’s recommendations. For this reason, I am very concerned that five years have now past and ASG has not taken the initiative to consult with the DOI and make recommendations to Congress based on the American Samoa Economic Development Study.”
“However, as I indicated to the Governor and those in attendance, my number one priority is the passage of our tax extension after which time we will begin the task of assisting ASG with developing a long-term policy,” Faleomavaega concluded.