Budget plan focuses
on housing, education
Democrats urge Lingle to release
funds for social service programs
More money for low-income housing and schools highlight Gov. Linda Lingle's proposed budget for nearly $9 billion in state spending for the next two fiscal years.
Democratic state lawmakers said they see no new programs in Lingle's budget and urged her to release money for social service programs that they approved earlier this year but Lingle restricted.
Lingle plans to spend $4.4 billion of general-fund revenues in fiscal year 2006 and $4.5 billion in fiscal year 2007 to fund state operations.
The expenditures are included in a six-year financial plan Lingle submitted to the state Legislature yesterday. They represent general-fund spending increases of 11.2 percent and 14.2 percent respectively over the current year's operating budget.
Lingle said she will propose no new taxes in her budget proposal, thanks to the state's strong economy, fueled by strong performances in the visitor and construction industries.
At their most recent meeting in September, the economists whose projections determine how much the state can spend projected general-fund revenue growths of 8.8 percent in the current fiscal year and 5.3 percent and 5.7 percent the following years.
Although the financial plan includes major details about her planned spending, Lingle has yet to submit her budget, which is due to lawmakers at least 20 days prior to the opening of the Legislature on Jan. 19.
"I'm real excited about this budget. It's the first budget that we've submitted completely as an administration," Lingle said.
Gov. Ben Cayetano submitted the previous two-year operating budget to the state Legislature in 2002, just prior to Lingle's taking office.
Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Mililani Mauka-North Shore) said lawmakers agree that education and housing are state priorities, but "I didn't see any new initiatives."
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa-Makiki) said the Legislature balanced the current budget when the revenue projections were lower, and urged Lingle to release the money for social services programs they approved.
"We feel she could have funded and didn't need to restrict some of those programs," he said.
Lingle is also proposing to spend $597 million in capital improvements during the next two years through the sale of state general obligation bonds. She said most of the increase in the operating budget is for fixed costs, including state employee pay raises.
Some highlights in Lingle's budget include giving the state Department of Education an additional $100 million a year and the University of Hawaii an additional $50 million a year for capital improvements. She also plans to give UH an additional $25 million to fund its operations, and $20 million for its scholarship fund to make more money available for needy students as tuition rises.
She plans to add $2 million a year to the state rental housing trust fund, which when allocated with private funding will produce 450 new rental units per year, Lingle said.
Her budget also includes $10 million a year to renovate the state's inventory of nearly 900 rental housing units and an additional $10 million to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for infrastructure development, which Lingle said will result in the construction of 700 new homes a year.
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Lingle proposes 359-bed
prison for West Hawaii
The Lingle administration wants to build a new community correctional facility on the Big Island for state pretrial detainees and inmates with short sentences.
In Gov. Linda Lingle's proposed budget for the next two fiscal years, she included an undisclosed amount of money for planning of a 359-bed facility in West Hawaii.
"There are a couple of sites that have already been looked at and infrastructure, in a general sense, analyzed," Lingle said.
She said building a facility on the west side of the island would ease overcrowding at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo and cut the cost to transport inmates from Hilo to Kona for court appearances.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said he is glad Lingle included money to plan a West Hawaii facility in her budget because overcrowding at HCCC has been a problem for a long time.
"We had been informed some time ago by the Department of Public Safety that the facility on the island is at a crisis level" and that inmates were being sent to Maui and Oahu, Kim said.
Lingle did not name the sites that were looked at, and Kim said it is better not to name a site before getting community input.
State Sen. Paul Whalen (R, Milolii-Kawaihae) said this was the first he heard of Lingle's proposal. "I'm a little bit surprised she picked West Hawaii with our high land prices," he said.
Rep.-elect Josh Green (D, North Kona-Honokohau) also had not heard of Lingle's proposal, but agrees there is a need for more prison space.
Whalen said he anticipates mixed reaction from his community. "I'm sure there will be a lot of opposition no matter where you propose."