Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that by a vote of 367 to 45 the House passed H.R. 6111, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act 0f 2006, which includes a two-year extension of 30A tax credits for American Samoa’s canneries and protects the jobs of more than 5,000 cannery workers.
“Once again, I give all the credit and thanks to God for his guidance and also to the Governor, the Fono, the people of American Samoa, the CEOs of our canneries, including Dennis Mussell and John Signorino of Chicken of the Sea, Peter Smith, Jeff Watters and Susan Jackson of StarKist, Bill Spane of Del Monte, former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, Under Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Assistant Secretary Papali’i David Cohen, OIA Director Nik Pula, Mr. Dave Burney, Executive Director of the US Tuna Foundation, and Republican Chairman Bill Thomas and Ranking Member Charles Rangel of the Ways and Means Committee who were our greatest champions,” Faleomavaega said.
“I also thank our colleagues in the Senate including Republican Chairman Charles Grassley, Democratic Ranking Member Max Baucus and Senator Orrin Hatch of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Daniel Inouye and Senator Daniel Akaka who lent their support although they are not members of the Senate Finance Committee. I also thank Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.”
“These good people have been the critical players and have worked together in a bipartisan manner for the benefit of our people,” Faleomavaega said. “If the Senate acts quickly and if the President signs this legislation into law before the end of the month, I believe this will make for a very Merry Christmas in American Samoa.”
“Our tax extenders have encouraged two US canneries which employ more than 5,150 people or 74 percent of the workforce to remain and invest in American Samoa. More than 80% of American Samoa’s private sector economy is dependent either directly or indirectly on these canneries and a decrease in production or departure of one or both of the two canneries in American Samoa could devastate the local economy resulting in massive layoffs and insurmountable financial difficulties.”
“While we still have a few more steps to take, I am hopeful that the Senate will take the necessary steps remaining so that the President can sign this into law and we can begin the process of developing a long-term tax policy which includes input from all vested stakeholders, especially our tuna canneries.”
“Earlier this week, I met with Susan Jackson, VP of StarKist, in my DC office and I have been on the phone with John Signorino, CEO of Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing, and I have requested that we meet in San Diego with both canneries and the boat owners sometime this month so that we can begin discussions in the very near future about developing a long-term tax policy once we have our short-term fix behind us. As I said before, our canneries have always felt that it was in their interest to put a hold on a long-term policy until we have a short-term fix in place given the global complexities of the tuna industry. Also, given that our economy hinges on their presence, I agree that this is a wise course of action.”
“Once our extension is in place, I look forward to working with our local leaders and business communities to make sure their interests are also represented. Most of all, I believe in the Samoan proverbial expression, E le sili atu le ta’i i lo’o le tapua’i which means those of us in the front line are no more important than those who are praying for us in the background. So, this is why I ask for your continued support and prayers.”
“For now, American Samoa’s extenders, like all other extenders, are part of a larger bill. Each and every year, no matter which party is in control, popular tax extenders which enjoy broad bipartisan support are inserted into larger bills to entice one party or the other to vote in favor of other provisions they might not otherwise support, and this has been the case with our extenders. The good news is our canneries understand how things work in Washington and understand that in time our tax credits will be extended and made retroactive so that they will not lose anything in the process of waiting.”
“Even better news is that we might wrap this up before Christmas and begin the new year carving out a long-term policy that will be helpful for now and generations to come. However, there is still work that must be done. The Senate must accept H.R. 6111 as is and forward it directly to the President for signature. If the Senate amends this in any way, then there will be no time left to conference before the 109th Congress comes to an end. But, according to the Senate Majority, the plan is to get this done before Saturday or Sunday and send it directly to the President for signature without further amendment and without sending the bill back to the House for conference.”
“Nevertheless, if for some reason the Senate chooses to amend H.R. 6111, then we will revisit this issue in January and the incoming Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the Honorable Charles Rangel, has already given me his assurances that he stands prepared to assist us. I also had the opportunity to personally thank Mr. Rangel and Chairman Thomas on the House floor today. Chairman Thomas is retiring and I thanked him again for being so good to American Samoa and extended to him my deepest appreciation and well-wishes on behalf of our people.”
“I also extend the same to the people of American Samoa, and especially our troops. I join with you in praying for their safe return and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas,” Faleomavaega concluded.