Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

As budget cut details emerge, so do defects

To call the state budget a work in progress is, in a word, generous. As lawmakers and the governor attempt to negotiate the spending of rapidly disappearing revenues, the picture grows grimmer daily.

Earlier this month, the Lingle administration warned that in the event of war, some campaign budget promises might cease to be entirely operable.

Furthermore, Lingle gave indications that the state might even have to tap into the hurricane or rainy-day fund to make up for shortfalls.

Then last week, Lingle said she would instead target other special funds, restructure debt and curb abuses of tax credits.

Now, as details of those intentions come more into focus, flaws appear:

• Most worrisome is that Lingle's efforts do not directly address the impacts that the war on Iraq will have on the state's revenue. The Legislature is scheduled to end May 1, and new revenue projections won't come until May 9.

Lingle said it is too early to know what the economic impact of the war will be, but it's fairly obvious which direction revenues are headed. Thus, Lingle and legislators are working to balance a budget based on an inflated revenue projection.

• Lingle expects to find $24 million to put toward balancing the budget by transferring unused special funds to the general fund. We've watched the pirating of special funds for a decade now, and we question whether any remain that don't truly address legitimate needs.

• At first blush, Lingle's proposal to trim $2.7 million from the DOE's adult education program — that is, cutting it in half — sounds sensible. "We feel very strongly," she says, "that adult education in teaching karaoke and country line dancing is not a core function" of the DOE.

But we wish Lingle would check more thoroughly with those in charge of functions about to be trimmed. Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto insists that "frivolous" courses like guitar playing and backyard gardening are almost entirely self-sustaining, as they should be. Therefore, it won't be those classes that are discontinued by this new budget cut.

What could be deeply slashed by the cuts are areas such as adult literacy and high school diplomas, citizenship training for recent immigrants and English as a second language courses. These programs are partly subsidized because the community benefits from their results.

• Restructuring debt would seems to be a slam dunk. With falling interest rates, everyone's refinancing. But lawmakers should look closely at Lingle's proposed tightening of Act 221 high-tech tax credits. We must be careful not to sacrifice beneficial, targeted long-range economic growth simply to enhance next year's tax revenues.