House Dems trim
hospitals’ funding

Disagreement ensues over whether
a surplus should be considered

State House Democrats defended an $11.2 million cut from next year's funding of the state's community hospitals.

Legislature 2004
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Rep. Tommy Waters said the Finance Committee made the cut because an audit showed the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. had a carryover balance of $15 million at the end of last year.

"Now you add that $15 million to the $20 million that the Finance Committee is funding HHSC, that's $35 million. They're asking for $31 (million), we're giving them $35 (million)," said Waters (D, Lanikai-Waimanalo).

But state Budget Director Georgina Kawamura said a carryover balance includes anticipated revenues not yet collected and should not be used in planning future budgets.

House members approved the $3.6 billion supplemental budget by a vote of 43-5 with three members absent. All opposition was cast by minority Republicans. The bill now goes to the Senate for further crafting before both sides hash out differences in a conference committee later in the session.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle asked lawmakers to include $31.2 million in the budget to subsidize the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which runs the state's 12 community hospitals -- the same amount the Legislature allotted for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. However, the Finance Committee put just $20 million into next year's budget.

Kawamura said the community hospital agency needs a carryover balance for its first payroll of the new fiscal year.

Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Ahuimanu) voted against the budget because of the cut to the community hospitals.

"They need more, not less help from us now to fulfill their mission," Meyer said.

Rep. David Pendleton (R, Maunawili-Kaneohe) said he voted against the budget because the attached committee report contained unnecessary attacks on the Lingle administration.

The report said Lingle withheld details about some of her plans to increase state revenues until her State of the State address Jan. 26, a month after she submitted her budget and financial plan to the Legislature, and that certain departments failed to provide information the committee requested. The report attributed confusion over the administration's handling of the budget to inexperience.

Kawamura said the inexperience comment was a direct insult to her and her staff.

"The three of us combined, years of experience, is more than 65 years," she said.

House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, Hawi-Hilo) defended the report. "The statements are factual, and we wanted to point out that there are areas where we need to improve."


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