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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Librarian criticized for response to cuts

By Lynda Arakawa and Gordon Y. K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday criticized state Librarian Virginia Lowell for failing to come up with ways to keep libraries open longer than 40 hours a week in the face of statewide budget cuts.

"I was so surprised by the library's reaction because it was so unprofessional," Lingle said.

She said state departments are under tight financial constraints and the prospect of a war with Iraq could hurt Hawai'i's finances.

"There really seems to be, again, a less than professional approach to what is a serious fiscal situation for our state," Lingle said. "Whether it's the state librarian, the Department of Education or the University of Hawai'i, or any department of state government, it's time for everyone to continue to deliver outstanding services."

The Lingle administration has ordered all state agencies to trim their budgets by as much as 5 percent in the face of less-than-stellar increases in revenues and her desire to forgo the use of $175 million in the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund.

DOE and UH officials, like Lowell, have balked about the cuts and have warned that they could severely reduce services to the public.

The library is set to lose $500,000, about 2.5 percent of its budget, under the Lingle plan. Lowell could not be reached for comment yesterday, but told The Advertiser last week that a plan now being considered would shut down Sunday hours in Hawai'i Kai and Mililani, leaving only three O'ahu libraries open on the seventh day. The plan also called for reduced Saturday hours on the Neighbor Islands.

Gov. Linda Lingle read to first-graders at Kalihi Waena yesterday as part of a celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Lingle has criticized the state librarian for her "unprofessional" response to budget cuts.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"While community input is important, it's not the deciding factor of what days to close," she said at the time. "It's finances that's driving the plan here. The real solution here is to put pressure on the lawmakers to adequately fund the library system."

Lingle yesterday also said she doesn't support the Senate leadership's proposal to increase taxes to raise revenues for public education, but she fell short of saying she would veto the bill.

"I want to wait until the session's over before making any specific comments about which particular bill I would veto or not, but I would say that it would be very hard for me to support anything that raises the tax burden on the people at this time," Lingle said.

The Senate today will vote on a bill that would increase the general excise tax from 4 percent to 4.5 percent, and incorporate a food tax credit of up to $100 per person. It is estimated to generate an extra $80 million for the DOE and UH. The measure is expected to stall in the state House, and yesterday Lingle said the measure is the wrong approach for the state.

"I think the Legislature needs to face the reality of our nation perhaps going to war and the impact that would have on our state," she said. "So to be proposing new funding, which is what they're proposing with this tax increase, I don't think is a responsible thing to do fiscally at this time."

Lingle returned Saturday from a trip to the Mainland, which included lobbying for federal recognition for Native Hawaiians and other issues in Washington, D.C., and making media appearances in New York.

She said she met her goals for the trip, which she said included helping "lay the foundation" for the Native Hawaiian recognition bill, obtaining $900,000 in federal dollars over three years for drug prevention and treatment programs on the Big Island, and helping to change national and international perception about doing business in the state.