Thursday, June 26, 2003

State Senate President Robert Bunda, left, and state Sens. Donna Kim and Russell Kokubun discussed yesterday the possibility of a special session to override some of the vetoes sent down by Gov. Linda Lingle.

Democrats seek
a way past Lingle

Senate members will
listen to those affected
by her recent vetoes

A showdown over Republican Gov. Linda Lingle's 50 vetoes is shaping up at the state Capitol.

Lingle took the unusual move last night of going on prime-time television to give a detailed account of the state's financial problems.

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Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are mapping plans for an unprecedented Monday public hearing called to listen to people they say will be hurt by Lingle's vetoes.

Senators said yesterday that a series of veto messages from Lingle were "insulting" and helped to fuel a new call for the Legislature to override some vetoes.

Before her statewide commercial TV broadcast to defend her vetoes and brief the public on the state's financial problems, Lingle met with reporters and editors of Honolulu and neighbor island newspapers and the Associated Press to explain her concerns about the budget.

"It is a serious problem, but I am optimistic about the future," Lingle said.

While Lingle was taping her prime-time special for KITV 4, Senate leaders were planning to meet in a "committee of the whole" -- something that has never been convened outside a legislative session -- Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa-Pupukea) had previously said he doubted there would be enough support for a veto override, which requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate.

But he said yesterday that the severity of Lingle's cuts to social service programs appeared to push more legislators toward favoring veto overrides. The Legislature must override any vetoes on July 8.

The programs were funded by a bill vetoed by Lingle.

The money, Bunda said, was coming from a separate fund, the so-called state rainy-day fund, and not the state general fund. Because the shortfall is in the general fund, cutting the rainy-day fund money will not actually help balance the budget, Bunda said.

The bill, Bunda said, was designed to give more than $4 million to "hospitals, clinics and social service agencies to serve the frail, the disabled, the needy. ... This would enable use to help people desperately in need of aid."

Lingle revised her budget projections yesterday, saying that the estimated shortfall for the next two years of the budget will be $152 million. She had previously said the budget was short by $232 million, but that figure had not included $30 million in federal aid for Medicaid programs and an additional $50 million from federal economic growth legislation.

Although the governor said on Saturday and repeated Tuesday that the extra funds had been included in the budget estimates, she said yesterday that those earlier calculations were in error because the federal funds had not been added to the budget.

The problem with the state's budget, however, remains, she said, and the Legislature should not attempt to restore funds that do not exist.

"If you continue with the facade that you can continue to spend money when you have a shortfall, it is not fair now, and it is not fair to those in the future," Lingle said.

The battle over the budget is moving along partisan lines with Democrats, who hold majorities in the House and Senate, considering overriding the vetoes and Republicans defending Lingle and attacking the Democrats.

"Before the Democrats start playing politics, they should consider the plight the state is in and who caused it," said Senate GOP leader Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo).

"I am supporting the governor and not the Democrats. It is their wanton spending and irresponsibility that put the state on the brink of bankruptcy," Hemmings said.


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