HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell refused to sign the City budget today, allowing it to pass by default.
Calling it "a bare bones budget," Mayor Caldwell wouldn't put his signature on a City budget that he says compromises core services. "Instead I returned the budgets unsigned with a very detailed letter" explains Caldwell. "Five pages single spaced explaining my position."
The letter describes a budget imbalance of 26 million dollars, triggered by two moves by the City Council.
First, the rejection of the Mayor's proposed fuel tax rate to generate 15-million for bus services and road work.
Second, increased spending of 11 million in grants-in-aid.
The Mayor says these grants come at the expense of city services. "Road repaving, sewer improvements, making sure our parks are maintained, those kinds of things, not nice to haves but absolutely have to have" stresses Caldwell.
City Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi stands by the budget. She said, "We're just trying to make things right for the people in our City. We're taking care of sewers and roads. Why not take care of people who are in need of help?"
Mayor Caldwell's concern is that balancing the budget takes money from the vacant position fund-- and could harm city services.
Kobayashi doesn't see it that way, saying "65 million for vacant funded positions is a lot of money."
Caldwell cautions less money could mean trouble filling positions for services such as bulky item pickups.
He warns if Police and Fire contracts, now in collective bargaining, come in higher, without an additional revenue source, cuts could come next.
In the Mayor's words, "Then it means taking money from city services. It means cutting services like bulky item, cutting grass in our parks, or lifeguards. I don't want to do that and council doesn't."
The Mayor considered a veto, but in the end, said that wouldn't be in the interest of taxpayers. Instead, the budget passes without his signature.