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Report claims taxpayers' bucks are being wasted


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POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2009

From a traveling art exhibit that does not travel to a state-paid trip to Hollywood for the Grammys, Hawaii governments are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, according to a report released Wednesday.

Other examples of so-called frivolous spending include funding for the arts, legislator pay raises and spending for substitute janitors in public schools, says the first Hawaii Pork Report.

Accompanied by a man dressed in a 6-foot-tall pink pig suit - Pigfoot, the mascot against government waste - the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii unveiled its study on the footsteps of the state Capitol. The institute advocates smaller government and opposes native Hawaiian programs.

“;The point of it is to get taxpayers fired up about the egregious waste of their money,”; said Jamie Story, institute president.

The report details more than 30 projects costing $169 million. The most expensive programs were run by the city of Honolulu - $141 million. State programs targeted by the group totaled $28 million.

Not everyone, however, considers the programs wasteful.

One example highlighted in the report is $2,800 used to send a state employee to California for the Grammy Awards last year.

But that trip was useful in promoting the Hawaiian music category in the Grammys, which also helps the tourism industry, said Georja Skinner, administrator for the state Creative Industries Division.

“;Hawaiian music and our arts are very important and intrinsic to our tourism product. It's what differentiates Hawaii from other destinations around the world,”; Skinner said.

During the trip, the state employee and several Hawaiian bands drew audiences at appearances at a tour of Borders bookstores in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.

In the case of the traveling art exhibit, the state-funded Artmobile was supposed to bring miniature art galleries to public schools at a cost of $93,000.

But the institute says in its report that the Artmobile's school tour has been on hiatus for years. It said that information was provided by an unnamed museum employee whom it contacted by phone.

The largest state expenditure in the report encompassed $6 million spent by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for various sculptures and other artwork displayed in schools, courthouses and hospitals.

The executive director of the foundation, Ron Yamakawa, said he would only respond to questions in writing, but then he did not return an e-mail or a follow-up phone call Wednesday.

“;The problem is that there's no accountability and there's no consequences to wasting taxpayer money,”; said David Williams, vice president of Washington, D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste. “;People need to know where their hard-earned tax dollars are going.”;

Other projects listed in the report as wasteful include:

» $50,000 for security to keep hikers off Oahu's perilous Stairway to Heaven trail.

» $4 million to combat coqui frogs.

» $2.6 million to promote Honolulu's rail project.

» $2.2 million for Department of Education sabbatical leaves.

» $2.2 million for the Royal Hawaiian Band.