Governor recaps achievements of his administration

Usually a State of the Territory Adddress is presented by the Governor at the first legislative session of the year.

But today, Monday, Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga gave what resembled a State of the Territory speech at the opening of the final session of the 38th Legislature.

The Governor recapped the major achievements that the administration achieved in the last four years and acknowledged the Fono’s support in reaching some of these achievements.

He also listed some of the administration’s major pieces of legislation that the Fono approved.

These include bills banning styrofoam containers, designation of coral reefs as critical habitat, licensing of locally based US purse seiners, and approval of membership of American Samoa in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Lemanu listed major building projects that are under construction, about to be completed or will be getting underway soon. He mentioned the new Fono building, the new Judiciary building, and a building for the Executive Branch. Also offices for the Eastern and Western District Governors.

He said in nearly every village, new school buildings have been constructed. A new administration building for the Department of Education should begin construction before the end of the year, and a new building for the School Lunch Program is also in the works.

Governor Lemanu also listed building projects that the government funded for private schools.

Also mentioned in the Governor’s address is the collaboration between Samoa and American Samoa on food security, specifically the cultivation of seafood like clams and seaweed, as well as plans for a cattle farm industry, poultry and sheep farming.

Another development that Lemanu highlighted was the arrival of the first super alia which he said would help boost fishing.

Lemanu spoke with pride about American Samoa’s participation in the Pacific Arts Festival in Hawaii and said that the territory’s performances have won praise and admiration.

He also highlighted the attendance of Samoa’s Prime Minister at this year’s Samoan Heritage Festival in Hawaii and said the event presented an opportunity for the two Samoa to work together in the preservation of the culture and heritage of Samoa.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program which provides food stamps for low income people, the elderly and those with special needs.

The Governor paid tribute to Muavaefaatasi John Suisala who played a pivotal role in starting the program in American Samoa during the administration of Governor A. P. Lutali. He said Muavaefaatsi has worked under 5 different governors and remains as DHSS Director today.

Other points highlighted by Governor Lemanu was ASPA’s efforts to lessen dependence on fuel generated power and bring down the cost of electricity. These include the 42 megawatt wind and battery storage farm at Manunu, the 20 megawatt PVC farm at Pavaiai and a waste to energy project. Regarding the wind farm the Governor said the project has brought blessings for Auma and Aoloau.

Lemanu said ASPA has reported that the Boil Water Notice is to be lifted within 60 days.

Touching briefly on the LBJ Hospital Governor Lemanu said that the hospital is doing well and reported that all patients that had been treated at Hope Dialysis Center are now being taken care off at the LBJ Dialysis clinic. He said staff of the center are also being given the opportunity to join the LBJ staff.

The Governor gave a glance at the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget for ASG.

It totals $733.6 million, of which $165.9 is local revenues, $282.6 million is grants, $274.4 million is Enterprise Funds and $10.6 million is Capital Improvement Projects.

Some departments will get an increase in local revenues.

Governor Lemanu said the Department of Education is to receive an increase in local funding as some federal grants can no longer pay for projects and services that were allowable before.

He said the Department of Agriculture is also to get a boost in local funding to finance food security projects with Samoa.

The local match for Medicaid is to be increased from $4 million to $6 million so as to make use of more federal funding. Medicaid gets between $87 and $89 million in federal funds but due to lack of local match the funding cannot be fully utilized.

In his brief response to the Governor’s speech, Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean said that if there is a surplus in government funds, that the Fono be involved in deciding how the funds should be used. He said if the roles of the Fono and the executive become entangled, this would end up in court. He said this is not what the Fono wants. “There needs to be some deliberation,” he urged.

Tuaolo also noted that there was a 40% increase in the FY2025 budget compared to the budget for the current fiscal year. He said the Fono stands ready to review the budget when its submitted. As for the new Fono building he said the latest from the Director of Public Works is that it will be completed in November.

Tuaolo brought laughter when he said to the Governor that it’s not just them who want to be re-elected. Senators and Representatives also want to return ..”so were essentially in the same boat…having to pay bills at restaurants to sway voters.”