Dems push governor for funding of charities
Lingle will release money after careful review, an aide says
Hawaii Democratic lawmakers pressured Republican Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday to release several million dollars the Legislature set aside for charities.
Without the money, many of the nonprofit organizations will be forced to cut their programs, the lawmakers said.
A Lingle administration official said some of the money will soon be released, but the governor is carefully evaluating the merits of each program before spending taxpayer money.
Out of about $10.1 million in state grants allocated by the Legislature in 2007, Lingle had released less than $2.7 million as of May 9, said Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho). These grants expire June 30 if not released by the governor, who has final say on state expenditures. No operating grants for nonprofits were approved by lawmakers in 2008.
"These organizations are helping the poorest and weakest in our community," Oshiro said at a news conference with House and Senate leaders at the Capitol. "It's not much money, but it's a lot for these people."
The grants help pay for operations of organizations such as the Coalition for a Drug Free Hawaii, Habitat for Humanity, Women Helping Women and the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii. Out of 70 operating grants approved by the Legislature, Lingle funded 17, according to a May 9 accounting by the Department of Budget and Finance.
The Hawaii Opera Theatre is waiting on a $200,000 grant to provide arts programming and training in schools that sometimes do not even have an art or music teacher, said Executive Director Karen Tiller, asked to comment on the funding holdback.
"HOT is an important community resource, helping to fill the void many schools have in arts education," Tiller said. "We expanded our reach, based on the news we would be supported with this grant."
Lingle and her budget advisers are reviewing each grant application before spending the money, said spokesman Lenny Klompus. More grants will be released between now and the June 30 deadline, he said.
"The governor has indicated on numerous occasions that she's never seen a project that she didn't feel was worthy," Klompus said. "There is a comprehensive process that the governor has initiated which takes a careful detailed scrutiny of all the GIAs (grants in aid) on a case-by-case basis. ... We're being fiscally responsible."
The Democrats emphasized that this money for nonprofits was accounted for as they shaped a balanced state budget. These grants account for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state's $10 billion general fund budget, Oshiro said.
One nonprofit organization, the Filipino Community Center, has been told it will receive half of a $250,000 grant approved by lawmakers, said President Geminiano Arre Jr. The money will be used for its nursing review class and Smart Seniors program, which has enrolled 280 people in the last two years, teaching a variety of skills including computer training, aerobics and ballroom dancing.
"We're one of the lucky ones that are getting something," Arre said. "The funding for the previous year ran out in the end of February, so we had to stop the Smart Seniors program. Hopefully it will restart by July 1."