Republican senators denounce budget bill
By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
Senate Republicans yesterday criticized the $3.56 billion state budget bill passed by the House, calling it "a continuation of the failed economic formulas of the majority party."
The proposed budget, now under consideration by the Senate, includes increases in alcohol and tobacco taxes and taking $100 million from the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund. It increases state spending by about $90 million.
The Senate Republicans reiterated their position that the budget can be balanced by finding money in other areas, such as eliminating vacancies. But the governor's director of communications, Jackie Kido, has said many vacancies are teacher positions that need to be filled.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi, D-11th (McCully, Mo'ili'ili, Manoa), has said the Senate is considering using $50 million to $100 million from the hurricane fund.
Senate Minority Floor Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo) called the budget "a continuation of the poor formula of managing the resources of this state. This management has kept Hawai'i in a black hole for over a decade."
Hemmings cited state audits some dating to 1998 that he said showed state mismanagement. He added, however, that the GOP is researching whether the problems were corrected.
State officials said at least some of the concerns listed in the audits are moot, such as a 1999 audit reporting at least $43 million in excess reserves that should be returned to the Hawaii Public Employees Health Fund. State budget director Neal Miyahira said the state received $55.2 million back and that it is already included in the administration's financial plan.