Legislators squabble over delay in funding
The $30 million legislative appropriations bill, usually the first routinely passed measure of the session, triggered a little name-calling between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate floor yesterday.
The appropriations bill pays for the operations of the Legislature, the legislative auditor, the ombudsman and the Legislative Reference Bureau. And it gets attention only from the affected agencies.
But this year, the bill was delayed two days before passage, and Gov. Linda Lingle could not sign it until Saturday, missing the Friday deadline to pay some House staffers.
The delay did not sit well with Senate GOP leader Fred Hemmings, who said an amendment offered by Senate Vice President Donna Kim "delayed the Legislature's budget process to play petty politics."
Yesterday on the Senate floor, Democrat Kim, whose amendment cut $340,000 from the Senate budget, fired back, saying Hemmings could not back up his charges.
"He doesn't have the decency or is man enough to once again say he spoke without thinking. Frankly, I think his party should be embarrassed by a leader of his nature," said Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa).
After the session, Republican Sen. Sam Slom said, "I think Fred has a death wish."
"For the last year we have been cheering on Donna Kim's attempts to get the figures (on the legislative budget). Our side has been saying, 'Right on, girl, you get the information,'" Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) said.
Kim said after the Legislature voted to increase its budget 16 percent last year -- after four years of no increases -- the budget needed to be scrutinized.
Senate President Robert Bunda, in discussions with the House, had negotiated another 16 percent increase this year, but Kim's amendment lowered it.
"The Democrats all agreed; we all looked at the budget and agreed to cut the budget," Kim said after the stormy Senate session.
"I have always been a stickler for budget details. What bothers me is the hypocriticalness of Fred, when he has never stood up and asked for the information," Kim said.
Hemmings said Kim "should apologize to the House staff workers that did not get paid on time and suffered personal hardship."
"She should also apologize to the taxpayers that foot the bill for her partisan vendettas," Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) said in a news release.
Slom characterized yesterday's harsh words as being part of an internal power struggle between Bunda and Kim.
"I think a lot of it is the schism between the 10 Bunda votes and the 10 Kim votes," Slom said.
"There is a lot of bloviating going on," Slom said.