Lingle's cautious budget approach elicits criticism


POSTED: Saturday, February 07, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle will not come up with a new state financial plan until March, after the Council on Revenues meets. That delay has upset legislative budget leaders who say the state's financial crisis needs work now.

Lingle, in a meeting with reporters yesterday, said “;it would not be rational”; to come up with a new financial plan until she sees whether the council will again lower the state's tax collection estimates when it meets in early March.

“;To develop a budget based on a projection that you know is not going to hold is really not a constructive process,”; Lingle said.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Finance Committee chairman, called Lingle's thinking “;nonsense.”;

“;If she wants to postpone a financial plan until March, that is almost two months of delay, and we don't have that time,”; Oshiro said.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, Ways and Means chairwoman, was equally blunt, saying Lingle should develop a plan that accounts for the existing 3 percent drop in tax collections and then have a contingency for any future drops.

“;What is going to change? She has to know how to balance the 3 percent drop,”; Kim said.

Lingle said all the budget issues are “;interconnected.”;

“;It is not appropriate for me to propose something unilaterally at this early stage,”; Lingle said.

She added that she has been holding discussions with the House and Senate leaders, and members of her administration have been discussing budget changes with members of the nonprofit community and the public employee unions.

“;I think it is premature to have specifics,”; Lingle said.

The governor told reporters yesterday that she would meet with the House leaders and wanted to discuss a possible delay of the Legislature's own internal timetable.

That schedule calls for the state budget bill to be passed by the House by March 16 so that the final conference committee draft could be agreed upon by May 1.

Lingle said it is an internal deadline and that it can be changed.

“;I have talked to them, and I will talk to them some more about changing their internal deadline,”; Lingle said.

Lingle said the state's budget has so many unknown portions with the revenue projections in flux that “;it should give them pause and step back somewhat.”;

“;I will submit a complete plan once the Council Revenues meets on March 9 or 10,”; Lingle said.

Oshiro and Kim said the deadline was developed so that the bills could have the constitutionally required three votes in each chamber and that the public would know about changes and have time to comment.

Lingle said she “;talked to them about doing it in a more collaborative way to think of this as a new process that would lend itself to the times we live in.”;

Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa) shot back that Lingle's suggestion was not realistic: “;Does she think we can go behind closed door, cut a deal and come out holding hands and sing 'Kumbaya'?”;

Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho) also discounted any change in the legislative timetable, saying Lingle did not request it when she met in Speaker Calvin Say's office yesterday with House leadership.