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Freeze Spending

BY SEN. SAM SLOM, R-HAWAII KAI – Do you believe all those recent sad Hawaii news headlines about the proposed legislative budget that has cut government services in Hawaii so deeply that all the needy are in great peril?

I don’t believe these sob stories, because they’re not true.

And I’m down at the State Capitol every day, all day.

With just one side of the story being reported, you may be led to believe there is no alternative plan to the one that proposes continued government expansion and tax increases to support that growth.

Rubbish!

The mainstream media, soft on economic and fiscal background knowledge, rely on press releases and sound bites from majority party lawmakers, their own liberal bias, and social lobbyists, to paint a false picture of what is really happening with the state’s $21 billion plus biennium budget.

In January, as the Hawaii State Legislature began, the Senate Minority—yes, that is me, the only Republican in the 25-member State Senate—promised a balanced budget based on curtailing government expenditures that spares Hawaii’s already over burdened families and small businesses from additional tax hikes.

On April 8, our proposal was detailed at a Capitol press conference.

We released a budget that we created from the ground up, starting with preservation of core government functions.  The research was completed by Arik Look and Lauren Rogan of Senate Minority Research, and Troy Thompson, a University of Hawaii intern with my office.

Other than the Associated Press‘ Mark Neisse and Hawaii Reporter, our plan was universally ignored by the local media. And still is.

Even though there is duplication of services and lack of oversight, we are led to believe that social services are already bleeding and we must be taxed more to continue to prop them up.

Oh yes, we must also continue to support the unionized public employees who enjoy compensation and benefits far superior to the private sector employees who must support them.

Yet my Senate colleagues and I have received hundreds of emails and phone calls, urging a fiscally sound budget instead of raising taxes. These taxpayers are also being ignored. Who speaks for them?

The Senate Minority “No Alternative” budget is the only alternative to every other announced formal state budget draft that relies on more spending, more debt, and more taxes.

Every single mom, every family and every small business has had to cut back, do without, and change course during these challenging economic times. Thousands of private employees have lost their jobs and benefits. But not the state government.

Other states are painfully coming to grips with the new reality of over spending and declining revenues, but not Hawaii. We seem to believe we can spend and tax our way out of our poor economy and hostile business climate.

Here are the basic facts: The Lingle Administration had to deal with two years of unprecedented budget deficits, $2.1 billion and $1.2 billion. Money was withheld; programs defunded, furloughs (instead of massive layoffs) emerged. The process was painful, but it worked. No major change in government direction took place, however, as this was a short term fix.

The new Abercrombie Administration entered in December 2010 and immediately announced reinstatement of programs, personnel and funding. But the Governor went further and submitted a budget to the legislature 1½ months late, that put back all personnel, added nearly $900 million in new spending and unilaterally “gave away the store” to the public unions.

The projected $1.3 billion budget deficit is real; the projected decline in revenues by the state council on Revenues is real. The proposed solutions by the governor and the majority in the Legislature are not real solutions.

The Legislature wrestled with the budget proposal amid continuous begging and screaming from a multitude of social and business entities used to getting state subsidies.

The result has been cutting around the edges of the budget, but no substantive cuts.

The budget—at a current $21-plus billion draft for the next two fiscal years— is larger than the base budget. The “cuts” are not really to programs or departments, but to the executive increases and “restoration” of past expenditures.

The budget of the majority party relies on a short-term band-aid approach, with raiding of every major special fund, heavy tax increases, fiscal slight of hand and more debt.

Two years from now, the budget will still be in trouble. But there will be no more federal “stimulus” funds and no more special fund balances to raid.

The answer? We MUST stop government excesses now, before the government stops us.

Will it be painful? Yes, but ask the private sector about pain. Every day we delay making meaningful change, means even greater pain and less opportunity for all of us in the future.

We have to curtail state department growth, eliminate waste and duplication—and there is plenty already uncovered—and learn to live within our means and the means of those that pay for all of us.

Our “No Alternative Budget” actually:

  • Cuts back on personnel—some 2,000 public employees, of which nearly 600 jobs are now vacant. An estimated 1,000 government employees of 45,000 retire or leave their jobs every year.
  • Eliminates non-essential programs in various departments including, Department of Business Economic Development and & Tourism, Department of Education, Department of Health and the Office of the Lt. Governor.
  • Removes duplication of services.

Instead of just barely balancing the budget by Fiscal 2013, our $18.1 billion two-year budget cuts nearly $4 billion and gives the state flexibility.

  • Without any GET tax hike.
  • Without taxing pensions.
  • Without raiding the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund or Rainy Day Fund.
  • Without delaying tax refunds or important tax credits.

In short, the approach is to curb demand and find ways to increase supply.

We are told that government must grow to meet increasing demands. But those demands are generated by people who want others to pay for them; not necessarily the truly needy or those who cannot do for themselves.

The “poverty” industry is growing in Hawaii with many top heavy salaried positions.

Philosophically, government shouldn’t make promises it can’t keep.

Government big enough to give you everything you demand is big enough to take away everything you’ve got.

Is this a perfect process? No. Is it a panacea? No. Will it garner majority support? Not in the Legislature. But it is the only true alternative to a continuation of a destructive policy of government bloat and taxation that will continue to rob our keiki and kupuna of their economic dignity.

You should know there is a real alternative and it should be seriously debated.

Want more specifics?  Visit: http://hawaiisenatewatchdog.org/

There are less than 10 days left in this regular legislative session with the House – Senate Budget Conference Committee starting this week.  All emphasis has been on more taxes without a single bill to curb government growth or to improve Hawaii’s business and economic climate.

This is the real answer to more revenues: improve the business climate, attract more capital and expand the tax base. The majority seems hell bent on simply redistributing existing wealth.

That is the mantra of the President with Hawaii ties; with the new Governor based on his two decades as a spending leader in Congress, and a State Legislature heavily dominant (House 43-8, Senate 24-1) with a record of taxation, union give aways and employer mandates.

It is easy for elected officials to be “compassionate” with other peoples’ money, but it isn’t right.

Yes we can demand that Hawaii government live within its means—and ours—without taxing us even more. But you must speak up now. Call your lawmakers today – and keep calling them and writing them until the session concludes May 5.

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