The Office of the Governor will run out of money at the end of March 2003, according to Bob Awana, chief of staff for Gov. Linda Lingle, because the $1 million emergency appropriation the governor requested several weeks ago from the state Legislature has not yet been approved by the House and Senate.

Lingle, who worked from the moment she got into office to balance the state budget with at least a $180 million shortfall, was told three days before she took office that the Legislature had axed the governor’s FY 2003 $3.4 million budget by $993,000.

But that wasn’t the only bad news. Former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano already had spent nearly all of the $3,300,700 remaining, according to his then Chief of Staff Sam Callejo, leaving just $400,000 for Lingle to operate the governor’s office for six more months until the end of the fiscal year in June 2003.

Though the new administration scraped together slightly more than the $400,000 to keep the office going for three months, instead of the two months the $400,000 would normally fund, the jobs of the 65 remaining personnel in the governor’s office are now in jeopardy. That is because there is simply no more money to pay them or their benefits after March 2003, Awana says. The governor needs back the $993,000, or nearly $1 million slashed from her budget before she ever took office, Awana says, and she needs it now.

But the Democrats majority in the state House refuses to acknowledge the governor’s tenuous position, saying she has plenty of money to operate her office, in fact, according to the state Rep. Scott Saiki, the governor has $3.4 million, more than was allocated in FY 2002 or FY 2001.

House Finance Chair Dwight Takamine attacked Lingle, saying his committee had slashed her emergency request to $590,000, because she did not need the $1 million. He said the governor imposed a 2.5 percent to 5 percent cut on all state agencies, so her budget should have to be cut too. He also said she should not have asked for $1 million, when she really just needed $993,000 to make up the difference. He then attempted to justify the further cuts, saying the governor’s office should suffer at least another 5 percent reduction for her entire executive branch operations.

House Republicans fired back that taking $410,000 from a $1 million appropriation is considerably more than a 5 percent or 10 percent cut. House Minority Leader Galen Fox pleaded with the Democrat leadership to restore the cuts and pass the full emergency appropriation immediately. The debate went on for more than two hours.

Democrats also began to make fun of the governor for requesting in the $1 million emergency an allocation, because a small portion of the allocation was to be used to buy furniture and recover some existing furniture for the governor’s home.

When Lingle moved in to the new governor’s home, she learned the home had been constructed but left completely unfurnished in the end of 2002 by the prior administration, and there was no money allocated for furniture.

State Rep. Kirk Caldwell, D- Manoa, went through Lingle’s list of furniture items requested, piece by piece, mocking the governor for requesting an armoire, comparing the governor to King Louis of France who he says was the first person to have an armoire. He went on to explain to the Legislature what an armoire was, but was stopped by Republican House members who pointed out many Democrat legislators actually have armoire, or stand-alone closets, in their offices. Cauldwell was not deterred, saying the governor should not be requesting rugs for the wood-floored house, or window coverings for the now open windows, or an entertainment center for $2,000. He pointed out the new home had been built with private funds raised by the former governor, and that Lingle should get private funds to furnish the home.

Rep. Michael Puamamo Kahikina, D-Waianae, said Lingle should just move back into Washington Place, where the former governor and his wife lived, until the state comes into better fiscal times. “If it was good enough for the former governor and first lady, it should be good enough for her.”

But Republicans point out Gov. Benjamin Cayetano had built the new home to keep his promise to the Hawaiian people that he’d return Washington Place, the home of former Queen Liliuokalani, to the Hawaiian people and the general public, before he left office in 2002. That was one of the few promises he kept, and they don’t want to be responsible for breaking his promise to the Hawaiian people.

At the end of a considerable debate that went on for more than two hours, the Republicans were forced to vote with strong reservations in favor of a bill that would approve the governor’s emergency request at $590,000 instead of $1 million. That is because if they had voted no, no money would have been allocated to the governor’s office, not even the $590,000, because the bill would have died. Now the request goes to the Senate for its approval and consideration.

Those upset with the actions of the House, say the the House played politics with the governor in order to make her job more difficult and in order to put her office operations and staff at risk. They pointed to the fact that the bill was the last of several hundred in the House, before it was passed to the Senate, a comment the Democat leadership took great offense to.

Those upset with the House’s action point to the fact that the Legislature recently sent its budget request for funding to operate this session, a request the governor immediately signed.

While some suggested she should hold the $1 million in funding until the Democrats approve her $1 million funding, the governor said she doesn’t want to play political games.

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