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Judiciary able to delay payment on electricity bills


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POSTED: Saturday, February 21, 2009

Like everyone else, the state Judiciary has seen its electricity bill soar. This year the Judiciary, which runs all courts across the state, owes the various state electric companies $1.1 million more than budgeted.

The good news is that the original over-budget estimate of $1.8 million dropped to $1.1 million because of lower fuel costs and energy conservation, according to court officials.

The bad news is that the Judiciary will have to defer payment of its May and June electric bills, according to a state Senate Judiciary Committee report.

The Judiciary sent in a request, Senate Bill 110, for an emergency appropriation to pay the bill but ran into trouble.

“;Your committee received information from the Judiciary that the governor will not recommend passage of an emergency appropriation,”; the committee report notes.

Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Judiciary Committee chairman, says according to the state Constitution, the governor has to formally request an emergency appropriation.

“;Right now she hasn't done it. They asked her to, but she said she is not inclined to do it,”; Taniguchi (D, Manoa) said.

Russell Pang, Gov. Linda Lingle's chief of media relations, confirmed that Lingle told all state departments in October that she would not make any emergency appropriations requests because the current budget already has a shortfall.

Tom Mick, head of the Judiciary policy and planning department, said the judges and courts can wait to pay the bill, but in the end it still must be paid.

“;We can wait,”; Mick said.

“;Consumption has gone down. There has been a dramatic decrease in the last six months,”; Mick added.

He notes that Hawaii power companies are dependent on oil to generate electricity, and an unexpected increase in electricity bills was due to higher crude oil prices worldwide.

Because the Judiciary operates in all counties, the price of electricity is dependent on the prices charged by the local utility.

For instance, Maui courts report energy costs increased 35 percent last year, while courts on Oahu saw an increase of between 25 and 30 percent.

On the Big Island a new Hilo courthouse, which has not opened, is budgeted for $66,000 per month, but the Judiciary reports “;the contract is already incurring $76,000 per month in expenses for electricity with the building still unoccupied.”;