Am. Samoa gov submits $456M budget to lawmakers

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — American Samoa Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has submitted a budget of more than $456 million to territorial lawmakers, 8 percent less than the last fiscal year.

The fiscal 2014 budget is lower than the nearly $496 million budget in fiscal 2013 because of automatic federal budget cuts, plus the ending of some federal disaster programs and stimulus funds, Moliga said.

The territory's government has historically relied heavily on federal grants for operations. But Moliga says the territory will be assuming greater responsibility next year for its own funding.

Moliga says 75 percent of the proposed spending in his budget would be financed by local revenues.

"This bodes well for the territory's attempt to achieve greater self-sufficiency and self-reliance," the governor said. "This is a favorable trend and it is one that will be followed in the future."

The budget includes $1 million to help college graduates transition to the workforce, to help encourage them to stay in American Samoa.

One of the goals "is to prevent our best and brightest young people from migrating offshore, forcing us to rely on expatriates for technical and management skills," Moliga said.

The budget also includes $1 million in proposed funding for a government-owned Development Bank of American Samoa.

Moliga said the funding would help local entrepreneurs get access to venture capital financing. Other commercial banks have tighter lending policies that limit the abilities of American Samoans to participate in economic development.

Budget hearings are expected to be scheduled next month as a priority measure for lawmakers. The fiscal 2014 budget goes into effect Oct. 1.

The budget summary says the territory will be allocated $106.8 million in federal grants, compared with just over $113 million in fiscal 2013.

The budget projects $108.8 million in local revenues, 23 percent higher than fiscal 2013. Moliga said the higher local revenues are because of a 36.2 percent increase in projected tax collections, including more than $25 million in individual income and general excise taxes and $18 million in corporate taxes.

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