Legislature 2002

Senate bill avoids use
of hurricane relief fund

The measure is at odds with a
House budget balancing bill

By Crystal Kua

The legislative positions on balancing the state budget are now officially set.

The Senate approved a bill yesterday that would take $123 million from special funds, including the tobacco settlement fund, to offset a projected $300 million shortfall. The bill also proposes using a portion of unspent funds by state agencies for contractual services, an amount estimated at up to $45 million.

The state administration has said, however, that the money is already spoken for.

The House, meanwhile, has already voted to use about $100 million from the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund.

Yesterday in the Senate, Republicans opposed using money from special funds. Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) said it would have been better if the Senate were getting rid of the special funds. "We're going to continue to build them up again and raid them again later on."

Both Slom and Minority Floor Leader Fred Hemmings (R, Kailua) said these funds were created for specific purposes like fixing roads, promoting health education and other projects. "So somewhere along the line, someone was deceived, and, unfortunately, I think once again it was the taxpayers," Hemmings said.

The Senate is looking to balance the budget without using any of the $213 million Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa) had recommended using $55 million from the hurricane fund to finance education projects but could not muster enough support for the idea.Gov. Ben Cayetano wants to use the entire fund. The budget heads for conference committees.

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