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Bills would ax business-related agencies


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POSTED: Sunday, March 29, 2009

A number of state agencies are on the chopping block this year as the Hawaii legislature makes an all-out effort to narrow its budget deficit.

Two bills introduced this session propose dismantling the Hawaii Community Development Authority and Aloha Tower Development Corp.

Meanwhile, an overhaul is also proposed for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which has 11 attached agencies, including HCDA and ATDC.

It appears that most of the state agencies will remain intact, due to scheduling deadlines at the Legislature, but they likely will undergo close scrutiny of their budgets and function until this session is over.

“;Because of the economy, the governor and legislative leaders have repeatedly said, everything's on the table,”; said Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe). “;Downsizing government is part of what's on the table.”;

Hee supports Senate Bill 1313, which would repeal HCDA — created by the legislature in 1976 — transferring the redevelopment agency's management of Kakaako and Kalaeloa to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the City & County of Honolulu.

Hee said he introduced the bill because HCDA's functions really are city functions, and whether the agency is really necessary has been debated since the 1980s.

HCDA has in the past few years been embroiled in controversial projects, including Alexander & Baldwin's scrapped master plan for the Kakaako waterfront, its management of Kewalo Basin, and the recent approval of General Growth Properties' master plan for Ward.

Another bill seeks to abolish the Aloha Tower Development Corporation, transferring its functions to HCDA except for the harbors modernization project, which would go to the state Department of Transportation.

The House Finance Committee, in reviewing the state budget earlier this month, criticized DBEDT for failing to provide a clear plan for Hawaii's energy independence, and proposed an overhaul in which it would transfer several divisions to other agencies.

It recommended that HCDA and the Land Use Commission be transferred to DLNR, for instance. Also, that the Foreign Trade Zone and ATDC go to DOT's harbor division.

The Senate Ways and Neans Committee will now weigh in on those recommendations.

Another bill, which originally would have repealed the state Office of Planning (also under DBEDT), was amended to establish an interim construction moratorium along Kailua Beach.

HCDA executive director Anthony Ching defended the track record of his agency, saying several projects would be threatened if it was repealed.Among them would be a $15 million loan HCDA plans to issue for the construction of Halekauwila Place, a 200-unit affordable housing project, as well as $4.9 million in repairs and improvements to Kewalo Basin and goals of bringing an energy corridor to Kalaeloa.

“;I take very seriously all of the deliberations the Legislature conducts with respect to my agency,”; said Ching. “;I understand it's the Legislature which created HCDA. They have certain expectations, and they have the power and authority to dismantle the HCDA.”;