Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to Representative Muavaefa’atasi Ae Ae Jr. who has expressed “confusion” about the purchase of a new vessel for Manu’a.
“In a Samoa News report dated March 9, 2004, Representative Muavaefa’atasi said that he is confused and has been kept in the dark about the recent purchase of the Manu’a vessel. However, on May 15, 2003 I issued a press release and informed the public that I was working to include funding for American Samoa in the Tax Act of 2003,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“On May 23, 2003, I issued another press release informing the public that as a result of this effort American Samoa would be included in the Tax Act and would receive an increase of about $460,000 for Medicaid and a one time payment of $5 million for FY03 and another $5 million in FY04 to address our transportation, health and education needs.”
“On May 29, 2003, I also wrote to Governor Togiola and copied my letter to every single member of the Fono including Representative Muavaefa’atasi. In my letter, I explained that on May 23, 2003 Congress passed the Tax Act and both the House and Senate agreed to support my request to provide American Samoa with approximately $10,460,000 in federal aid. I also informed the Fono that this payment of approximately $10,460,000 is in addition to our Department of the Interior funding and in no way takes away from any other funding that American Samoa receives.”
“Along with my letter, I provided every single member of the Fono with a chart which showed that from FY 1995-2001 American Samoa received more than a billion dollars in federal aid and about 75% of these funds went directly to ASG. The chart also showed that from 1995-2001 ASG received more than $256 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior, as directed by Congress.”
“I pointed out that much of this $256 million has been used for government operations and capital improvement projects (CIPs) as defined by the American Samoa Legislature. I also pointed out that ASG continues to be the only State or Territorial government that is given money from the federal government for purposes of providing for local government operations.”
“Although many members of Congress have tried to take away our $23 million for government operations and $10 million for capital improvements projects, I explained that I have fought hard to keep our funding in place. In my letter dated May 23, 2003, I also stated that year after year I have let our local leaders decide how to spend the $33 million per year we receive for government operations and high priority projects.”
“I also explained that as a Member of Congress it is and always has been within my purview to set aside some of this funding for projects that I believe would be most beneficial to our Territory. Even so, I have not set aside this funding and, as a matter of policy, I will continue to leave it to the discretion of our local leaders to decide how to spend the $33 million per year we receive for government operations and CIP projects.”
“I also stated that I am hopeful that our local leaders will agree that matters of policy should work both ways and that from time to time the local government should also support my efforts to fund high priority projects that have been brought to my attention by the people of American Samoa and our traditional and local leaders. For example, before his untimely death, the late Governor Tauese and I had many discussions about our need to renovate the harbors at Tau and Aunu’u and especially about the critical need to provide Manu’a District with a reliable vessel to transport cargo and passengers. Unfortunately, the late Governor was unable to allocate CIP funds for these projects but we had an understanding that any additional funds that could be obtained for these purposes should be our highest priority.”
“This is why I am pleased that I was able to include the Territories in the Tax Act of 2003 and why I have worked with Governor Togiola to set aside $4 million for the purchase of a new vessel for Manu’a. I repeat, the money from the Tax Act is in no way associated with the $33 million a year ASG receives from Congress for CIP and government operations. This means that ASG and the Fono may still determine how to fully spend its $33 million for government operations and high priority projects.”
“Again, since 1995, ASG and the Fono have determined how to spend more than $350 million in government operations and CIP funding. This year, the Governor and I worked together to purchase a vessel for Manu’a. On February 25, 2004, we issued a joint statement informing the public that we were purchasing the vessel with the money we received from the Tax Act. At no time did the Governor or I say that we were spending $10 million on a vessel. What I did say is that we initially set aside $5 million for the purchase of a vessel but thanks to negotiations we were able to purchase our vessel for $4 million.”
“As a matter of record, I have provided Samoa News with a copy of my chart and letter dated May 29, 2003 which was addressed to the Governor and copied to every member of the Fono. My May 15, 2003, May 23, 2003 and February 25, 2004 press releases can be found on my website. Upon further review of my letter, chart and press releases, I am confident that there will be no more confusion about this issue.”
“The purchase of this vessel has been a culmination of months of hard work on the part of many and it was done in consultation with the late Governor Sunia and our present Governor Togiola. Again, I thank everyone involved for making this possible for the people of Manu’a. Governor Togiola and I continue to extend our best wishes to the people of Manu’a and we are hopeful that the new vessel will be a blessing and a benefit for the people of Manu’a for years to come,” the Congressman concluded.