Budget becomes a balancing act - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Budget becomes a balancing act

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie
Kalbert Young Kalbert Young
Kathryn Matayoshi Kathryn Matayoshi
Marcus Oshiro Marcus Oshiro
Senator Sam Slom Senator Sam Slom

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Right after the Council on Revenues forecast negative economic growth for the remainder of the fiscal year, Gov. Neil Abercrombie issued an order he repeated Wednesday.

"Deal realistically with the budget needs that we have," he said.

Effective immediately, state departments must cut spending by ten percent to meet this year's $230 million shortfall.

Budget and Finance Director Kalbert Young said the cuts will add up.

"The ten percent right now would mean about $16 million just over the last four months of this year," he said.

But that's added to cuts departments like the Department of Education are already struggling with.

"Our estimate, just real quick, was that it's about $20 million that we need to find in the last three months of the year," schools superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said.

"You're cutting back on contracts. You're cutting back on operational expenses, water, sewage, electricity, paper, paper clips, travel, any kind of discretionary spending. You're cutting back on that," House Finance chairman Marcus Oshiro said.

Abercrombie said sacrifice will come from all corners.

"If we do that collectively then we'll be able to come out of this not only with a balanced budget but we'll be able to deliver the core services that people expect for their tax dollars," he said.

The governor also wants to scoop money from the Hurricane Relief fund and the Rainy Day fund.

"We would want to have available as a tool the entire funds -- $117 million and the $46 million -- $163 million in total," Young said.

There are bills in both the House and Senate to tap the funds but the governor would need legislative approval.

"The problem is once the money's gone it's not coming back. So it's a one time thing. It's not a way of budgeting. It's not a way of running the government," Sen. Sam Slom said.

As for department cuts the head of the DOE said some savings can come from salaries. But that's a sensitive area.

"Certainly salaries would come more from freezing vacant positions rather than trying to do anything in terms of things that are subject to collective bargaining," Matayoshi said.

"We will be working with certain departments that can't meet that threshold in terms of finding out how close can they get," Young said.

Time is running out to find the money to meet this year's budget. The fiscal year ends in June.


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