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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, April 3, 2003

Commission funding cuts dramatize choice

Gov. Linda Lingle's proposal to do away with state financing for the Hawai'i State Commission on the Status of Women will hardly win her any friends.

Already, several women's groups have protested the plan and at least 19 members of the Legislature have written a letter urging that the commission continue to receive state aid.

The amounts are not great, given the overall size of the potential state budget deficit — around $100,000 a year. But the principle here is important.

Lingle was elected on a campaign platform that focused heavily on her belief that the state budget was too large for the economy that currently supports it. That fact has been driven home in recent weeks and months as state tax collections continue to fall, not just below what is needed for current services, but below projections.

It becomes obvious that some programs, no matter how worthy, will have to be cut.

Some of Lingle's proposed cuts have been troublesome, and in many cases she has reversed direction when the short- and long-term impact of the cuts became clear.

But some belt-tightening is inevitable. In the case of the commission, it will be able to continue its useful work on a diminished basis even without direct state support. It has a trust fund and does receive some private donations from time to time.

In addition, the commission is part of a larger network of agencies and organizations interested in working on such issues as gender equality and the status of women. To the degree these various organizations want to maintain the commission as a central clearinghouse, they can offer it their support.

Surely Lingle, of all people, must appreciate the valuable work the commission has done over the years. But as governor, she has overarching responsibilities and obligations to the taxpayers of the state and the voters who elected her.