Lingle unveils new financial plan

School Superintendent Pat Hamamoto
School Superintendent Pat Hamamoto
Governor Linda Lingle
Governor Linda Lingle

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Governor Linda Lingle's looking to find ways to fill a two billion dollar gap, that's the biggest in Hawaii history.

For an unprecedented third time in three months, Lingle unveils her latest plan to balance the state's budget.

The plan focuses on three specific areas to save money:

- $300 million in wage and benefit cuts through labor-agreement adjustments for state workers

- Using almost $160 million from state stabilization funds

- Federal assistance to help cover public hospital and mental health costs.

As promised, Lingle says it doesn't involve tax hikes, layoffs, furloughs or public service cuts.

The Department of Education says financially, being able to make payroll before school ends is a struggle.

While the governor's plan gives back $30 million that the House took away, the DOE says that may not be enough.

It's a see-saw debate between the governor and the department of education.

"They're in the whole," said Governor Linda Lingle.

"I'd like to see the documents and like to see what she's referring to," said Department of Education Superintendent Pat Hamamoto.

Superintendent Pat Hamamoto expects a shortfall of nearly $86 million next year, that's because federal stimulus money she intended to use for the more than 175,000 students in her schools have some strings attached.

"It can only be used to supplement on-going programs, so they're not flexible," said Hamamoto.

Governor Lingle will give $80 million in money earmarked specifically for special needs and low income students. Another $35 million of a discretionary fund will go towards attracting additional federal grants. Lingle wants Hamamoto to find financial resources in addition to the state.

"My responsibility is the state of Hawaii and our overall budget. She is very narrowly focused, she wants more and more money every year," said Lingle.

"We have a targeted audience not by choice, kids have to be in school and our jobs is to service them," said Hamamoto.

Hamamoto says it's not about greed, student enrollment is independent of the economy.

"Yes we do ask for resources, we do ask for money, we still have to provide for them," said Hamamoto.

Funding for next quarter is in question, as federal stimulus applications for schools haven't been filed yet. If the federal stimulus funds don't go through, state schools and offices may have to close about 24 days early this year.