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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 7, 2003

Council action on police pay illogical

The Honolulu City Council's decision to defer an increase in the vehicle weight tax to pay for a police pay hike is fine as far as it goes.

After all, deciding whether to raise taxes and, if so, what tax that will be is a classic policy responsibility of the council.

But simply rejecting the weight tax hike and then walking away from the problem is irresponsible. The council approved the arbitrated pay hike won by the police so it has an obligation to say how it intends to pay for the raises.

True, the council has suggested the city use income from a recent land sale to pay for the police raises. But Harris administration officials say that money has been budgeted and accounted for.

City budget officials say the only way they can meet their legal obligation to the police would be to shut down certain operations or departments, lay off as many as 350 workers or some combination thereof.

There may be a bit of a bluff in that, but if so, it is the council's responsibility to call it.

Now that the weight tax has been postponed, perhaps killed outright, the council must come up with its alternative plan: Higher fees or taxes elsewhere or enough spending cuts to make up the shortfall.

To do otherwise is to default its rightful policy role to the administration.