Thursday, March 6, 2003

House votes on
reduced gov funding

By Pat Omandam

State House lawmakers will vote today on a controversial bill that would cut nearly in half a request for emergency funding for the governor's office.

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"Why would the Legislature give this governor far less money to operate her office than the last three governors?" said state Rep. Mark Moses (R, Kapolei) in a statement yesterday. "The short answer ... could be that she is a Republican. I do not want to believe that, but I need to ask, Why is this happening?"

The bill is one of two remaining to be voted on after a 15-hour floor session that was recessed at midnight Tuesday. The other bill involves emergency funding for new campaign spending provisions.

The bills were moved to the end of a 184-bill agenda Tuesday to prevent the 15-member Republican minority from proposing amendments to them. Today is the deadline for nonbudget Senate and House bills to cross over to the other body.

House Bill 1077, HD1, provides $508,141 in emergency funding to the Governor's and Lieutenant Governor's offices. The House GOP wanted to amend the bill to restore the full $1 million requested by Gov. Linda Lingle because part of the additional money is needed for furniture at the new governor's house and for personnel expenses.

A breakdown of Lingle's $93,500 furniture request, provided by the House Finance Committee, shows $29,000 for rugs and floor coverings, $25,000 to reupholster and refurbish existing furniture, $12,000 for miscellaneous furniture, $10,000 for bedroom furniture, $8,500 for window coverings, $4,000 for a sectional unit and chair, $2,500 for mattresses and frames (four sets) and $2,500 for an entertainment center.

The House majority has defended the reductions. They said there are other options for furniture, such as using donated furniture, Lingle's personal furniture or some from Washington Place.

Other reductions to the $1 million request included a cut of $181,412 to match the discretionary restrictions imposed on all departments. An extra $216,947 was cut after the Governor's Office overestimated vacation payouts and other projected expenses.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter continues to oppose a controversial House bill passed late Tuesday night that fast-tracks the Pacific Health Community project -- a new hospital in the Koa Ridge subdivision in Central Oahu -- by exempting it from laws pertaining to permitting and construction.

House Bill 550, HD1, which needed a two-thirds approval from the 51-member body because it involved special-purpose revenue bonds, narrowly passed by a 35-14 vote.

Jeff Mikulina, Hawaii chapter president, said the group is shocked over the passage of this special-interest legislation.

But the bill's introducer, state Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa), who is a director of Pacific Health Community but was allowed to vote on the measure, defended the project on the House floor, saying a large segment of Oahu's population would be without an area hospital if this long-planned replacement for Wahiawa General Hospital does not happen.

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