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Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, April 28, 1999


Cayetano’s budgetary
shenanigans

WHEN Gov. Ben Cayetano started this session of the Legislature, he offered up a state budget, called a "reality-based" budget. Others, especially in the state Senate, called it DOA -- Dead On Arrival.

Legislators soon found that the Cayetano budget was to grow, as emergency requests for public schools and public hospitals had to be included.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature Also, the initial budget relied on more than $100 million in budgetary restrictions.

"His budget is heavily reliant on those restrictions, but he won't say what they are," Lowell Kalapa, Tax Foundation president, said.

Then the counties crunched their own numbers, only to find the county workers couldn't be paid the promised pay increase.

So the state budget wasn't much to actually take to the bank.

Recently Rep. Calvin Say, speaker of the House and a former House Finance Committee chairman, said the present budget should leave us an ending balance of around $40 million.

About a year ago, when Cayetano teetered on the losing end of his re-election campaign, his budget director, Earl Anzai, was marveling at the unrealized and unreported strength of the Hawaiian economy.

"The improved financial condition of the state is expected to continue this fiscal year," he said.

"By maintaining our fiscal management policies, the general fund balance in fiscal year 1999 is expected to be $234 million, which would be the highest fund balance in five years," he exclaimed.

Then Cayetano came out with a new budget fix. He would take money from the state retirement system, by cutting back on state and county contributions. Although Cayetano painted it as a way to save the counties money and let them pay off their salary bills, it would result in much bigger savings for the state coffers.

Imagine if this budget were actually broadcast before the election. How could Cayetano have campaigned on a promise to raid the retirement system and restrict future spending?

Even though the re-election campaign is over and Cayetano won, by claiming to have a big budget surplus, he is still struggling with excuses and accountability.

Although Cayetano and his aides have tried to spread the responsibility, the budget belongs to Ben Cayetano. He ran on this budget, he planned it, he staked his political career on it and he won re-election because people believed he was telling the truth.

Now, however, Cayetano and Budget Director Anzai are trying to both spread the blame and delay any hard decisions.

For instance, Cayetano has started to argue that the budgets now before the Legislature will not balance without increased taxes or other fees. While stopping short of calling for a tax increase, he says the bills will not be paid under the current plan.

If presented with the existing budget proposals, including his own, Cayetano must cut spending.

Exactly how this will be done is not spelled out, so, aside from air-filled promises to cut the size of government, the Cayetano administration is designing a budget that will be without any accountability.

How can you trust a government that has elected officials who won't tell you what they plan to do?

If you are to be a leader, the people governed must trust you.

When the truth becomes distorted -- or fails to appear at all -- there is no leadership.



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Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at rborreca@pixi.com




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