Settle dispute over pedestrian safety funds
A clash between lawmakers and the governor have stalled pedestrian safety projects.
A tiff that began last year between state lawmakers and Gov. Linda Lingle about which pot of funds to tap for pedestrian safety improvements has ripened into a full-scale blame game that while meaningful to politicians is tiresome for everyone else.
Lingle and legislators may have valid basis for their positions, but to the public, they don't amount to a hill of bean counters. All people see is more pedestrians dying or being injured on Hawaii's roads even though $3 million has been approved for safety projects.
If Democratic legislators and the Republican governor support the objectives of the projects, they need to work out their differences and settle the funding dispute.
Lingle had insisted the money come from the General Fund instead of the state Highway Fund, which can be used to leverage contributions from the federal government for certain kinds of road work. Lawmakers disagreed, eventually overriding the governor's veto.
But while the Legislature allocates funds, the governor ultimately controls spending, releasing money if and when she chooses. Staying true to her word, Lingle put a hold on the $3 million. This has allowed some lawmakers and others to unfairly characterize the governor as uncaring. (The reaction from her office is spelled out by her senior adviser in a letter at right.)
Taxpayers, however, generally don't recognize the fine print, seeing the situation as a political squabble standing in the way of safety. They also are weary of confusing county-state jurisdictions that they view as allowing government entities to pass the buck.
With the Legislature in session, the funding stalemate could be quickly fixed -- if state leaders find the good sense to do it.
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