Friday, September 5, 2003

State spending
could see boost

Gov. Lingle says she wants
to be cautious the rosy forecast
for state tax revenues

Encouraged by good news from the Council on Revenues, Gov. Lingle is preparing to loosen the purse strings on state spending.

State of Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle told reporters yesterday that she is reviewing the council's latest projections, which increased the projected tax revenue rate by 1 percent, adding $35.9 million to the state's $3.1 billion annual budget.

State department budgets will be reviewed, and allocations for the rest of the fiscal year will be released, she said.

When Lingle signed the state budget this spring, she released funding for only the first three months and then withheld 20 percent of each department's discretionary spending.

The Council on Revenues had lowered state tax collection projections during its two previous meetings, but the reversal on Wednesday prompted calls from Democrats for Lingle to release more money.

The governor, however, said she would act cautiously, although she did give departments hope that some of the discretionary cuts would be restored.

"We will release to all departments their allotments for the rest of the year. It will also mean an increase in the 80 percent that they received in the first quarter for discretionary funding," Lingle told reporters.

Asked if that meant that the Department of Education and University of Hawaii community colleges could restore cuts made to athletic programs and courses, Lingle said those cuts should not have been made in the first place.

Noting that she had restricted only 20 percent of the state discretionary spending for just the first quarter, Lingle said no money for positions was cut.

"All positions were fully funded. ... They will receive the allotments as well as any adjustments we are able to make for the first quarter," Lingle said. "We are confident in the economy, and I feel very good about the numbers but I do not want to go out and spend everything."

Since assuming office in December, Lingle has prepared a budget of what she called "fiscal discipline" that rejected spending the hurricane relief fund for day-to-day expenses. She also cut the state budget by 5 percent upon taking office and carried that same reduction through to her first new two-year state budget.

Democrats, however, have complained that Lingle is needlessly hurting programs and the people helped by the state.


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