OHA, courts defy request to cut budget


POSTED: Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Some state agencies accustomed to spending money with little legislative oversight are now finding that the worsening local economy means they will have to redo their annual budgets - downward.

Yesterday, Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Donna Kim scolded officials from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state Judiciary, saying they were supposed to present plans for budget cuts instead of claiming they could not operate with any less money. Kim fears that the state is likely to see revenue projections drop again when the Council on Revenues meets Friday and wanted to see departments come in with plans for budget cuts ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent.

“;It doesn't look like they took any cuts, period,”; Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa) said about the OHA's budget request.

“;The Judiciary said they contemplated cuts of 5 percent, but they ended up doing nothing,”; Kim added.

Clyde Namuo, OHA executive director, said the OHA board wanted to maintain its budget, saying reductions would harm native Hawaiians.

Budget cuts would cause a “;severe decrease in identifying and perpetuation of constitutionally protected traditional and customary native Hawaiian practices,”; Namuo said in testimony.

The state also gives OHA $15 million a year, but that is part of a ceded land settlement and is not subject to budget cuts.

The state Judiciary has an annual budget of $158 million.

A Judiciary spokesman said “;hiring and overtime restrictions have affected morale and the delivery of services as the continually increasing workload must be done with less people in less time.”;

Mandated salary increases for state judges of $1.28 million this year and $1.77 million next year are part of the budget increases. But the Judiciary also needed $9 million more for operating increases. However, Kim said Gov. Linda Lingle's state budget envisions big cuts to the Judiciary budget, but the agency “;is asking for more money.

“;We are going to have to look at cuts to the Judiciary and we are going to look at cuts at OHA,”; Kim warned.