Spin causes confusion about school funding
The governor and lawmakers contradict each other about repair allocations.
GOVERNOR Lingle's assertion
that the state Department of Education has yet to spend the more than $570 million already allocated for public school repair and maintenance is technically correct. Democratic legislators' claims that Lingle is holding back money they've already approved for the work also is technically correct.
What both sides are leaving out are the details, and it's not because they are in the dark.
They are engaging in the tiresome practice of spin. Such word play can confuse voters and further alienate them from rational discussion about how the state ought to spend revenue.
In her State of the State address, Republican Lingle proposed $90 million for school construction, repairs and maintenance. "This money is on top of the $570 million already appropriated but not yet spent by the Department of Education."
Not true, said Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Norman Sakamoto, who accused the governor of "sitting on $213 million" in appropriations.
While it is true Lingle has not yet released the $213 million, the impression that statement leaves is that she is withholding the money when in fact releasing funds is a complicated process.
By the same token, Lingle's remark might suggest to the casual listener that the DOE wants more money when it hasn't spent what it already has. As Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto explained in a letter to the Star-Bulletin, while funds might not have changed hands, they are either committed to projects or are designated for specific purposes and will be dispersed as projects are cleared by state fiscal officers.
Neither lawmakers nor the governor are unfamiliar with the processes involved in managing the state's finances. They know that projects need to be approved and put out to bid, that contracts must be authorized and bonds issued, all in an orderly fashion.
However, they frame the situation to fit their differing plans for allocating funds for education, especially in an election year. The conflicting statements and claims are not in the public's interest, but shore up their own.
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