Narrow Escape for Transparency in Hawaii Government

Hawaii Senate Chambers
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BY MALIA HILL – One of the most popular features at Hawaii Sunshine, the Grassroot Institute’s transparency site, is the table of state salaries.

And why not?  When questions about collective bargaining and state employees’ unions seem to rule our news, it’s only logical that people are going to be curious about what those state salaries actually are.


This is especially true here in Hawaii, where problems with our current state employee pension system threaten to eventually bankrupt the state.  Since all of us are going to have to bear the economic and tax burden of the public sector employment benefits, it seems only fair that the public should be able to know about public sector salaries.

Not only fair, but responsible.  The default position in so many government agencies is to withhold information from the public–after all, if no one knows about something, then the agency won’t ever be the target of public outrage, media attention, or legislative action.

Transparency keeps shining sunlight into those areas that government would prefer kept dark, thereby helping to ensure more honest and responsible government.  In terms of civic responsibilities, keeping an eye on government spending may not be glamorous, but it’s still important.

And it still requires vigilance.  Just last week, Senate Bill 1094 died in committee on a tie vote–talk about your photo finishes.  The bill proposed allowing Hawaii public employees to conceal their name, compensation range, and job description.

It was introduced by Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee (D–Kahaluu) who was joined in by Senator Mike Gabbard (D–Kapolei) in voting to pass it out of committee.

Voting against were Senator Les Ihara (D–Kaimuki) and Senator Sam Slom (R–Hawaii Kai).

If you support open government, be sure to thank Senators Ihara and Slom for voting to preserve transparency in Hawaii.