New projections deepen state deficit

State House Speaker Calvin Say
State House Speaker Calvin Say
State District 17 Representative Gene Ward
State District 17 Representative Gene Ward
House Finance Committee Chair Rep. Marcus Oshiro
House Finance Committee Chair Rep. Marcus Oshiro

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The state's deficit deepens as its council on revenues projects a budget shortfall that nears a billion dollars, sending lawmakers scrambling to come up with the cash.

House leaders say the state's finances hit rock bottom this last quarter and that means every idea is back on the table to try and tackle the shortfall.

With a predicted $90 million shortfall this fiscal year, $260 million the next two, on top of the $650 million the state already owes, that all adds up to about $900 million dollars in deficit.

It's drawing a battle over the budget.

"We're on a spiral downwards," said State House Speaker Calvin Say.

"Its not what we thought was really really drastic," said State District 17 Representative Gene Ward.

Friction over finances.

"Enough is enough in terms of what we've done in terms of the operating budget," said Say.

"We've got to get away from this we need your tax increase," said Ward.

A big blame game.

"They say yeah everything should be on the table, but in the meantime we're scraping all these labor bills," said Ward.

"From the labor bills to the business bills to the tax exemptions to the tax credits to these tax enhancements. We're taking the brunt of the criticism," said Say.

Hawaii house leaders clash as Governor Linda Lingle says she's committed to balancing the budget without layoffs or tax increases. She's already saved $48 million in spending cuts since last July.

"She may have to go as high as 20-percent in current appropriation general funds in order to accommodate that shortfall," said House Finance Committee Chair Rep. Marcus Oshiro.

House republicans say layoffs would lessen consumer spending, leading to a prolonged recession.

"There's no decrease in money in the world, it's a matter of a decrease in confidence, that if I put my money out there, am I going to get anything back?" said Ward.

Ideas like furloughs asking state workers to take a day off without pay each month could save the state a $100 million a year. State leaders say its time to put aside differences and arrive at a common solution.

A plan of spending cuts, state employee layoffs, and tax increases are included in a budget that's already approved by the House Finance Committee. The state senate will now look at the new projections and revise that budget accordingly.