Cuts just first salvo in budget battles


POSTED: Monday, October 27, 2008

THE state Board of Education has completed the unenviable assignment of recommending cuts in both the public education and library budgets, the first by 15 percent and the second by 10 percent.

The reductions do not meet the highest level Gov. Linda Lingle ordered for all state departments, prompted by a projected budget deficit of about $903 million by fiscal 2011. She had sought 10, 15 or 20 percent drops, but board members weren't willing to make deeper cuts that would have eliminated favored school programs and shuttered libraries.

Between the time she returns from her campaign tour for Republican presidential candidate John McCain and December, when she submits her budget to the Legislature, Lingle and her money managers will have to make some tough decisions for the two agencies.

Schools and libraries are among the state divisions the public doesn't like to see suffer budget cuts, and the board, as advocate for them, is very much aware of this.

So members have tossed the ball into Lingle's court. Chairwoman Donna Ikeda said the nearly $3 million decrease in library funding is the members' “;best offer,”; adding “;anything above that, if it's taken, it's taken by the governor.”; She also said taking more than the $50 million in cuts the board identified in the schools' budget will have to be up to Lingle.

The budget recommendations are just the opening rounds in a financial and political tug-of-war that will grind on through the legislative session. Lawmakers and the governor may be able to find compromise, but if the past experience holds true, the session will likely be another rough-and-tumble episode.