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Monday, October 23, 2000

Big budget surpluses
may not be realized

Bullet The issue: Congress is spending money at a pace that will cut into projected federal budget surpluses.

Bullet Our view: There may not be much money left to fund the tax cuts and new programs proposed by the presidential candidates.

WHILE the presidential candidates are telling the American people what they propose to do with the huge projected federal budget surpluses, Congress is busy whittling away at the current surplus. There is a real possibility that the projected surpluses will never materialize -- because the economy will falter or Congress will squander the money, or both.

Alan Fram of the Associated Press writes that "Congress is crafting late-session spending and tax bills that could shrink projected budget surpluses by more than a third." White House and congressional budget negotiators are finishing measures that could erode more than $800 billion of those expected surpluses, he reports.

Congressional Quarterly warns, "Fiscal restraint is gone as GOP leaders cut last-minute deals on 2001 spending bills in a desperate effort to get them past President Clinton's veto pen. By the time the horse-trading ends, the (spending) cap adopted three years ago will be a distant memory."

The article in Congressional Quarterly by Andrew Taylor said Congress is expected to exceed the fiscal 2001 spending limit by about $100 billion, or 18 percent -- $20 billion more than President Clinton originally requested.

That spending cap is an essential factor in the projected surpluses. Without restraint in spending, there is no telling how much of a surplus -- if any -- will materialize. Congress is blithely ignoring the cap.

Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan research group that favors a balanced budget, warns, "You can practically make the whole thing (surplus) go away. People making promises based on a $2.2 trillion surplus...ought to rein them in."

Of course, even wild spending binges might not consume the surpluses if economic growth continues to be remarkably strong and federal revenues continue to grow. But to base proposals for new programs on such assumptions would be foolhardy. The projections of surpluses rely on assumptions that spending will be restrained.

Fram points out that "even as Republicans try to hold tax cuts and new spending to 10 percent of the 2001 projected surplus of $268 billion, Congress will not come close to that proportion over the entire decade."

EVER since the budget began running surpluses in fiscal 1998, discretionary spending has grown faster than inflation, he writes. Using the roughly 5.5 percent average annual increase in discretionary spending since 1998, the Concord Coalition has estimated that those programs alone will reduce surpluses by $1.21 trillion over the next decade.

George W. Bush and Al Gore keep telling the American people they will provide tax cuts and new programs based on the projected surpluses. Don't count on them.

A park on the Ala Wai

Bullet The issue: The governor's communication director defended his proposal to convert the Ala Wai Golf Course into a park.

Bullet Our view: The communications director seemed unaware of the creation of other parks here in recent years.

IN an article in the Star-Bulletin's Insight section last Saturday, Jackie Kido, Governor Cayetano's director of communications, defends the governor's proposal to convert the Ala Wai Golf Course to a park in response to an Oct. 13 article by Barry Usagawa, a civil engineer. In that article, Usagawa pointed out that transferring the Ala Wai Golf Course to Sand Island as proposed by Cayetano would be infeasible because there isn't enough water on Sand Island to sustain a golf course's grass.

Kido ignored that point -- clearly an important one -- while berating Usagawa for failing to "grasp the larger picture when it comes to planning for our city."

Instead she focused on the fact that Kapiolani and Ala Moana parks were established decades ago and Honolulu's population has since grown significantly. She then made the extraordinary statement that since then "we have done little to provide people with the recreational space they need to live quality lives."

The insinuation was that Honolulu has Kapiolani and Ala Moana parks and nothing else. That is hardly the case.

In particular, Kido appears to be ignorant of the fact that under the two immediately previous state administrations of George Ariyoshi and John Waihee the state created parks at Sand Island and on the Kakaako waterfront.

And that is only a small part of the effort to expand recreational facilities on this island. Just weeks ago the city opened a major soccer facility on the Waipio Peninsula. Frank Fasi created Ho'omaluhia Park in Kaneohe. The Harris administration has expanded and improved parks in Central, Leeward and Windward Oahu. The city is now considering buying Waimea Valley for park use.

This newspaper fully supports the creation of more park space, for both active and passive recreation.

What we oppose is the destruction of the Ala Wai course to make way for a park that would adjoin the existing Kapiolani Park, a wonderful facility that is the focal point of a complex including the Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium, the Waikiki Shell, the Natatorium, the magnificent new bandstand, Queen's Surf beach, tennis and basketball courts, soccer and baseball fields, even an archery facility.

Kido remarks, "If Usagawa were to suggest to the people of New York that they convert Central Park into a golf course, they'd think him crazy." Correct, but he's suggesting no such thing and it's unfair to suggest that he might.

In fact, a lot of people think her boss is crazy for suggesting that the Ala Wai course, the most heavily used in the country, be converted into a park. Just how well this idea has been thought out may be judged by the fact that Cayetano proposed relocating the park in a place where there isn't enough water.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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