REPORT FROM THE OFFICE OF SENATOR SAM SLOM – HONOLULU — The governor held a news conference this week about the conflict between the state budget bill and the bond authorization bill, a conflict that doesn’t come as a surprise to Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom.
Senator Slom is the only legislator out of 76 that voted against the state budget bill and for the bond authorization bill (the latter constrains 2015 general obligation bond authorizations to $962m).
According to Senator Slom, “It is important to have clear and concise constraints on the amount of debt the state can consume. Without strong legal protections our taxpayers will be saddled with more and more debt.”
Senator Slom has long argued that the entire $23 billion budget bill was not in balance.
The current $444 million discrepancy between the budget bill and the bond authorization bill seems to be the product of what Senator Slom refers to as a “rushed and in haste legislative session.”
According to Senator Slom, “legislators were busier with populist projects such as the Turtle Bay easement than with resolving the State’s deteriorating financial situation. This discrepancy is just a reflection of the failure of state legislators to consider the big picture.”
In addition, Senator Slom states “It is not like it was all unknown to the legislators and executive[i]. For example, the State’s Director of Finance, Kalbert Young, had visited with many legislators later in the session discussing various budgetary issues including state debt. As for my position, I’m just the only legislator out of 76 who voted “no” on the budget because the Senate Minority had taken the time to identify problems with the budget, listen to the information being shared by the State Budget Director, and the Senate Minority had at that time analyzed the long-term fiscal consequences of the overspending and over borrowing occurring in the state.”
The solution proposed by the Governor to allow $399 million of the Department of Education state educational facilities improvement fund to lapse on July 1st seems inevitable at this point.[ii] However, Senator Slom takes issue with the Governor’s second plan to borrow $46 million from the Department of Education’s budget for fiscal year 2016 in order to balance the remaining part of the budget.
“Balancing a budget by borrowing money from future budgets is kicking the can down the road and it is not a sustainable solution” according to Senator Slom.
Currently the state is in a long-term deficit position and the recent June 2nd revenue downgrade (from 0% to -0.4%) by the Council on Revenues indicates that the economy has not come out of a recession yet. Senator Slom says “Tough fiscal times require tough and often unpopular decisions. Instead of “kicking the can down the road” the Governor should use this opportunity to use his line-item veto power to cut $45 million in low priority capital improvements projects in order to balance the budget.”