Cuts threaten jobs,
public access

The Legislature plans 10 percent
budget cuts for 4 state agencies

By Crystal Kua

Layoffs, pay cuts and less public access to government could be the effects of 10 percent budget cuts being proposed for the four agencies connected to the Legislature, state officials said yesterday.

State of Hawaii The heads of the offices of the state auditor, ombudsman, Legislative Reference Bureau and Ethics Commission told state lawmakers yesterday that the ability to do their jobs could be affected by the cuts.

"I don't want to sacrifice thoroughness in our investigations," said state Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga, whose office has a $813,948 budget.

But House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, Hamakua) said that any budget cuts should not be a reflection on the job the agencies have done.

"The level of dedication and work that has been carried out has been much appreciated," he said.

House Speaker Calvin Say requested last month that the agencies prepare budgets showing where they could make cuts for the next fiscal year. Say could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The proposed cuts come as the Legislature begins to figure out how to balance the state budget during uncertain fiscal times. During informational briefings before the House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means committee, representatives of each agency told how they would tackle the proposed reduction.

Matsunaga said his office, whose duties include investigating citizen complaints against state and county government agencies, would have to resort to laying off "warm bodies" or asking for voluntary pay cuts. "Our budget doesn't have much flexibility."

Dan Mollway, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said his agency, which investigates ethics complaints, could relocate from a leased office space to a state office, a savings of $63,000 to its $717,900 budget.

Ken Takayama, who heads the Legislative Reference Bureau, the research and reference arm of the Legislature, said the cut to its $2.4 million budget would mean that the service to lawmakers would be diminished. Takayama's office also staffs the Public Access Room, used by the public to research legislation and prepare testimony during the legislative session, and he expects to reduce personnel there.

"Our public access room would take a big hit," he said.

State Auditor Marion Higa said the cuts to her office's $2.3 million budget would mean less money for contracted technical experts for audits and studies.

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