Thursday, May 17, 2001

Budget Department
should let DOE keep
strike ‘windfall’

The issue: The state's Budget
Department wants to recapture
money that was not spent by the
Department of Education during
the teachers' strike.

What the Department of Education didn't spend when schools were closed by the teachers' strike the Department of Budget and Finance Department wants to take back.

It's a counterproductive move that unfairly penalizes a school system already roughed up by the impact of the strike. In addition, the tussle over the $28.5 million widens a rift between the administration and education officials and gives the public another reason to view state government negatively.

The money was accumulated during the 14-day strike last month when salaries, electricity bills, school bus operations and other expenses went unpaid.

It wasn't a sudden windfall the DOE didn't need but part of the department's budget. Further, education officials had already anticipated deficits in special education services, bus operations and other areas.

Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu had hoped the $28.5 million would cover strike-related expenses of $8.7 million and a $20 million shortfall expected for special education critical because of a court ordered decree.

Budget Director Neal Miyahira contends, however, that the DOE and the Board of Education were well aware the unused money would revert to the general fund and that it is needed for other state expenses.

A frustrated LeMahieu says this money shifting is exactly the kind of thing that hampers the DOE's planning for the long term. "Our budget is at risk day in and day out. We are restricted and reduced to solve the problems of state government at large."

He makes a good point. The $28.5 million was budgeted for public school expenses and to pull that money from the department's pocket only creates more chaos in the educational system.

It also bolsters a perception of pettiness that makes one wonder why the separate units of state government seem so at odds with each other.

Small harbors could be
money makers for state

The issue: Governor Cayetano has
declared his intention to use newly
enacted legislation to privatize
Hawaii's two largest yacht harbors.

HAWAII'S small board harbors are in need of repair but the greater need is that the operation of at least some of them be turned over to private enterprise. A bill passed by the Legislature may allow the state to take a step in that direction, perhaps achieving the degree of privatization that will turn government losses into private gains.

Governor Cayetano has sought to turn the expensive harbors at Ala Wai and Keehi Lagoon into private operations. He believes that new state laws allowing private construction and repairs of harbor facilities and leasing of portions of harbors for expanded uses will enable the state to achieve that goal.

State law has confined the use of harbors to "maritime-related activities." The newly enacted expansion of those permitted activities could attract restaurants and other harbor-related interests to lease space and help pay for harbor costs, says David Parsons of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Boating and Ocean Recreation Division.

"We have some firms interested in privatization but we know it won't happen overnight," Parsons says with some caution about what the new law will allow. "This gives an indication to private industry that their plans simply aren't dead on arrival."

Legislative auditor Marion Higa last month criticized the state for allowing the deterioration of its 19 small-boat harbors, placing the blame partly on poor planning and an insufficient fee structure. The state spends $1.3 million a year on repairs and maintenance, a task that if performed adequately would require nearly 10 times that amount. Increased boat slip fees scheduled for this summer will not pay that bill, requiring the state to use general revenues.

Changes in the law may allow the state to enter into public-private partnerships that will include long-term leases. Private businesses should be given incentives to surround harbors with marina facilities like the shops, restaurants, hotels and other amenities included in the private development of Ko Olina Marina. Yacht harbors should be a profitable element of Hawaii's economy, not a drain of public resources.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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