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Job losses due to state cuts trouble Big Island officials


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POSTED: Sunday, August 16, 2009

HILO » State budget cuts aimed at agriculture inspectors and a prison are drawing concern on the Big Island.

The administration of Gov. Linda Lingle is closing the Kulani Correctional Center, meaning the loss of 76 jobs at the only prison on the island.

Layoff notices have also gone out to all but one of the 14 state agricultural inspectors on the Big Island, which accounts for 80 percent of Hawaii agricultural production.

“;These proposals would have very serious and negative repercussions for our working families and our farmers, and I want to take this opportunity to respectfully urge the Lingle administration to reconsider,”; Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said at a public meeting.

The meeting held to hear public concerns drew state Board of Agriculture Chairwoman Sandra Kunimoto and Public Safety Director Clayton Frank, as well as Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and other state lawmakers.

“;We don't have the silver bullet to cure everything,”; said Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua). “;Don't feel we are not recognizing it or we're ignoring it.”;

Andrew Hashimoto, dean and director of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, warned that cutting the ranks of the agricultural inspectors could lead to less thorough inspections and bottlenecks.

If Big Island produce is sent to Honolulu for inspection, as is currently contemplated, there would be delays in getting food to market, he said.

“;Clearly much of the material won't be inspected,”; he said. “;It's a statistical thing.”;