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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 19, 2002

House budget boosts state work force

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau Chief

A proposed state budget for next year easily won preliminary approval in the House yesterday despite objections from critics who said it boosts state spending at a time when the state should be cutting back.

Republican Rep. Charles Djou protested that the proposed budget would add nearly 1,500 new government employees and increase state spending next year by almost $100 million more than this year.

"Mr. Speaker, it's my own belief that the Hawai'i economy simply cannot support our current state government," said Djou, R-47th (Kahalu'u, Kane'ohe). "What we need to be doing is dramatically reducing the spending here in our state government not, in my opinion, expanding it.

"With the Hawai'i economy struggling and people losing their jobs, I don't believe we should be increasing spending or expanding the size of our work force."

The House budget would authorize spending of about $3.56 billion next year, up from about $3.47 billion authorized for this year. Those figures do not include about $110 million this year and $210 million next year for public worker pay raises.

Rep. Ed Case, D-23rd (Manoa), also objected to the budget.

"I cannot support a measure that in my mind so clearly avoids our responsibility as leaders, not just to the present, but to our collective future," he said.

Supporters of the budget contend this is no time to slash state services and reduce state spending because that could erode consumer confidence, making the state's economic problems worse.

Case joined with Djou and five other Republicans in the 51-member House in voting against the budget, which is House Bill 1800. The measure is scheduled for another House floor vote later this week before moving to the Senate, where it will undergo further revisions.

Lawmakers had expected to have more money to spend next year, but had to cut back on their spending plans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks reduced projected state tax collections for this year and next year by a total of more than $300 million.

The House spending plan includes increases in alcohol and tobacco taxes, although it isn't clear yet how much of an increase would be imposed. The House plan would also take about $100 million from the surplus in the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund to help balance the budget.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.