money
Photo: Emily Metcalf
money
Photo: Emily Metcalf

BY JIM DOOLEY State departments want to expand the budget by  some $334.7 million, Budget and Finance Director Kalbert Young said in the first of a series of money briefings to lawmakers planned for this week and next.

Young said new general fund requests from Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration total nearly $120 million, offset by some $85.2 million in expected savings, bringing the net total to $34.7 million.

And the state wants to spend an extra $300 million on capital improvements projects, Young said.

The new money requests are expected to be covered by a projected 14.5 increase in state tax collections, although Young acknowledged that that prediction may be too rosy.

The state Council on Revenues made the 14.5 percent revenue increase prediction last year and meets again tomorrow to revisit the numbers.

When Rep. Isaac Choy said he has heard the Council may drop its revenue projection as low as eight percent, Young said the state can accommodate a lower number but not by much.

“Anything south of 13 (percent)” would cause serious problems for the state, he said.

In addition to new general fund appropriations, the state will seek another $300 million to pay for capital improvement projects, Young told members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Finance Committee.

Young said his department had pared down some $400 million in supplemental budget requests from all departments in the executive branch to the $119 million figure presented to the Legislature.

Additional capital improvement fund requests from $750 million to $300 million, he said.

As for the Department of Budget and Finance specifically, Young said personnel reductions in recent years have left it without “key personnel and back-up staff,” but called the staffing level “acceptably thin” for the time being.

But he said further loss of staff would mean “the ability to maintain critical operations is at risk.”

Also appearing before the committees today was state Judiciary official Tom Mick, who said the courts are seeking $1.9 million in extra money from lawmakers.

The Judiciary worked up its budget numbers with the state’s austere fiscal situation in mind, and keeping the request “minimal and related to unforeseen developments, inadvertent oversights…and safety and security issues,” said Mick.

“We understand the fiscal realities the state of Hawaii is facing and continues to face,” Mick sazid.

“At the same time, there is no moratorium on crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic abuse or the need for access to justice,” Mick continued.

The largest personnel item the courts are seeking would pay for 6 additional workers at the new juvenile detention center in Kapolei.

Understaffing there in the last fiscal year caused the Judiciary to pay $600,000 in overtime costs. Four of the current staffers “worked more than 1,000  hours of overtime in fiscal year 2011,” Mick said.

The new detention home is part of the Kapolei court complex opened in 2010 where equipment warranties are expiring, said Mick.  The Judiciary is seeking some $700,000 to finance maintenance and repair of air conditioning, elevators, security cameras and gates and other systems, he said.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com