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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Mayor will allow budget to pass

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Mayor Jeremy Harris announced yesterday he would allow the City Council's budget to pass into law on July 1 without his signature, except for one provision he intends to veto.

Corporation Counsel David Arakawa also will not sign off on the budget, the first time in his six years with the city he has not been able to certify a budget as a legal document.

But while Harris reiterated complaints about how the council had overestimated revenues and misplaced priorities, he said he would not veto the budget because council members had indicated they had enough votes for an override.

Harris also said he would not take the council to court.

"Instead of going to court and costing money and spending taxpayer money and entering into a legal dispute with the City Council, I will simply not implement any of the illegal acts within the budget," he said.

Harris said he will not sign the $1.2 billion operating budget, the $276 million construction budget and other budget bills, including one that would raise adult bus fares from $1.50 to $1.75 for a single ride. However, all the bills will go into effect on July 1.

City Budget Director Ivan Lui-Kwan said he thought the mayor's decision showed great statesmanship. "It was one that caused the least disruption to the operations of the city" and reflected the best interests of the city's employees and residents, he said.

Harris said the council's attempts to shift staff positions from one department to another violated the city charter, as did creating new jobs, so he would not enact those portions of the budget.

However, by refusing to implement parts of the budget, Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said, "Then he's going against the law."

She objected to Harris' suggestion that the council had knowingly passed a budget they did not believe could stand up to a court challenge.

Kobayashi said she would not mind if Harris took the council to court. "I welcome it," she said. "We wouldn't roll over."

She said that the major sticking point in the budget — shifting eight federal grant writers between departments — came out of an agreement with the administration the day before the council approved the budget. She said the administration agreed to try the move for one year.

Arakawa disagreed. "She and the City Council were advised multiple times about the errors and illegalities of the budget they were passing and yet they continued to ignore the corporation counsel's advice."

The mayor will only line-item veto a proviso that would designate $400,000 to settle a court case that was paid for in the present budget.

Deleting the provision would mean that the $400,000 would be freed to pay for other legal costs.

Harris said the council has overestimated revenues by at least $2.1 million.

"That will have to be reflected in further cuts in bus service and various other cuts in city operations," he said.

He has announced the closure of one satellite city hall and reductions in bus service as a result of budget cuts. Cuts to salaries within the managing director's office have also led to two layoffs, he said.