Hawaii House Republicans, who make up 8 of 51 seats, sent Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-HI, a letter on March 21, asking him to take immediate measures to “curtail state spending.”
They noted that Gov. Linda Lingle, R-HI, who was in office from 2002 to 2010, cut state spending in 2009 when confronted with a budget gap.
To balance the budget during challenging fiscal times, they note Lingle froze most state hiring, put a stop to state travel and told her department heads to refrain from non-essential equipment purchases and supplies.
Urging Abercrombie to do the same, House GOP also recommended Abercrombie delay his proposed budget increases, which would bring the state’s two year operating budget to $23 billion.
“These are actions you take as Chief Executive of the state without legislative approval. Further they are prudent actions that a CEO would consider in most businesses when anticipating a drop in revenues,” the House GOP wrote.
See their lettertoGovAbercrombie
Today, the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which is reviewing the House’s proposed budget, grilled Abercrombie’s budget and finance director, Kalbert Young, on the governor’s budget plans, his proposed tax hikes and his plan to grow government even further during a fiscal crisis.
The state faces additional revenue challenges because of the impact of the tsunami on tourism and the unrest in the middle east, which is impacting oil prices, Young said. He noted that state departments are being asked to freeze spending and cut their budgets this year by 10 percent.
But Young also said Abercrombie is looking for ways to keep government programs and services operating at least at a “minimum” by restoring cuts made by the Lingle administration.
He said the Abercrombie administration continues to work on a short term plan to turn the economy around and boost the state coffers, and that in the long term, the state would increase jobs and revenue through $1.3 billion in construction and the city’s $5.5 billion rail project not yet under construction.
To keep government in operation through the end of the fiscal year, no special fund raid or tax is off the table.
Young said the Hurricane Relief Fund, the Rainy Day fund and several other special funds would be “swept” as an emergency measure to keep the government in operation through the end of this fiscal year.
He said an increase to the state’s General Excise Tax, which impacts transactions at every level of goods and service, is also a possible solution to cover the estimated $1.3 billion shortfall that continues to grow larger as the state’s economic news worsens.
Both House GOP members, and the Senate’s only Republican, Sam Slom, continue to push the governor and Democrat majority for more cuts in spending and no tax hikes, saying that like all families and small business owners who are forced to cut back in difficult times, government must do the same.