Cost to run Legislature jumps by 51 percent
The cost to operate the state Legislature has soared 51 percent in five years.
Yesterday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the new legislative budget of $30.1 million for the current 2007 session.
That's a 7.9 percent increase over last year's $27.9 million budget. But a big chunk of the increase is for an additional $5.3 million for the legislative auditor's budget. After the budget is approved by the Senate, the House will vote on it.
The figures show the expenses for the House have risen 55 percent in five years and the Senate budget has increased 46 percent. The budgets for agencies attached to the Legislature have gone up only half as much.
For instance, the budget to run the Legislative Reference Bureau has increased 25 percent, the Ombudsman's budget has risen 19 percent and the Ethics Commission budget has increased 12 percent in five years.
Another item that has soared is the annual appropriation for the legislative information system. The cost jumped 50 percent this year to $1.8 million.
Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim said the increase is needed for computer improvements, ranging from new monitors to e-mail capabilities.
"We are doing new computer wiring (in the House and Senate chambers) downstairs. All the members are going to want new laptops; also, Ways and Means wants new dedicated servers, because they are having difficulties sharing the servers," Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa) said.
The Legislature provides free wireless Internet access in the Capitol's hallways and on the lanais, but that expense is part of the state's regular budget, Kim said.
Asked about the 50 percent increase in five years, Kim acknowledged that the increase appears large.
Kim, who after the Senate reorganization headed up a new subcommittee on legislative operations, said she had trouble tracking previous expenses.
"It is hard for me to say, but we are hoping that it will stabilize once we get a handle on it," Kim said. "It is difficult for us to determine where the money was spent. We can't figure it out."
Last year, Kim led an effort to cut the Senate's budget by $340,000, after saying that the Senate could operate on less than what was first suggested.
Possible pay raises, new furniture and perhaps an expanded travel budget are all items that will cause the Senate budget to increase, she said.
Senate Democrats also added a second committee staff position for majority members this year. Kim said that was because the Democrats have committee chairmanships and vice chairmanships and leadership positions, which the five GOP Senators do not have.
For the Senate, the payroll is $1.6 million for employees who work during the legislative session and an additional $3.9 million for the Senate's regular staff.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
» The state Legislature's budget increased 7.9 percent between 2006 and 2007, going from $27.9 million to $30.1 million. A Page A3 article Wednesday incorrectly reported the increase at 42 percent. The error was repeated in an editorial that ran on Page A14 yesterday.
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