State has $125-million less to work with - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State has $125-million less to work with

Rep. Marcus Oshiro Rep. Marcus Oshiro
Gov. Linda Lingle Gov. Linda Lingle

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - In increasingly tough time for Hawaii gets even worse as a $125-million shortfall may mean even more budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year.

"We're all in this boat together, we're all in this canoe together, we all need to pull together and keep together, because we will get through this," State Representative Marcus Oshiro, who chairs the finance committee said.

The Council on Revenues issues the quarterly revenue forecast. Lawmakers use it to come up with the state's budget. They originally thought it would be down just $25-million.

But Friday, the council predicted that funds for this fiscal year would fall to $150-million from last year.

As more cuts are on the way, the state is looking at its four biggest departments.

It's looking closely at the Department of Education, the University of Hawaii, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health.

But with unemployment sky-rocketing, legislators say they're trying their best to stay away from cutting jobs.

"No need to panic, at the same time, we need to make some tough decisions collectively as a community," Oshiro said.

It's still too early to tell what will be cut out of the state's budget, but what is known is that the state has now $125-million less to work with this year.

"We're looking right now at non-discretionary types of cuts right now, where we can maybe trim back some services, programs outside of the classroom," Oshiro said.

Governor Linda Lingle says Friday's findings aren't a surprise.

"The Council on Revenues' decision to lower projections is not unexpected given national and global economic conditions, as well as other external factors beyond our control that are impacting Hawaii," Lingle said in a statement.

Lingle says they may ask non-essential state workers to take off one day a month without pay.

Another option is tapping into the Hurricane Relief Fund. The Rainy Day Fund and two other special funds are already being drained to account for some of the losses.

"But we do not want people to lose their jobs and we'll try all types of means and options before we have to make that hard decision," Oshiro said.

The Council on Revenues say with tourism down considerably and not expected to come up anytime soon, even less tax revenues may be in Hawaii's future.

"We need to pull together as a community like we've never had to before," Oshiro said. "Each of us has to do our part and each of us to some degree will have to make a sacrifice."

The council's next forecast is scheduled for March, during the middle of the legislative session. It will likely influence final spending for this fiscal year and for the next one as well.

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