Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mayors want more



HONOLULU – Hawaii’s four mayors knew better than to pass the hat around the Capitol this year, but they still had plenty of other requests during a joint session today of the House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The money committees also heard more details about the dismal economic forecast from members of the Hawaii Council on Revenues,. The council last week settled on a prediction of a 3-percent drop in revenues for the 2009 fiscal year ending June 30 and a one-percent increase for FY10, starting July 1. That’s about $125 million less to spend in 2009 and about the same the following year over the past spending pattern.

The numerous charts were bright, but their message certainly wasn’t.

Instead of a lot of money, the mayors of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and the City and County of Honolulu are seeking changes to current statutes to allow them to do their jobs easier. The mayors several years ago formed the Hawaii Council of Mayors to present more of a unified message to the Legislature.

This year, the Council of Mayors endorsed seven priorities:

  • Making permanent the government liability laws enacted in 2007 – the “Sacred Falls law,” to keep public lands open by lowering the risk of lawsuits.

  • Representation on the boards of the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund and the Employees’ Retirement System.

  • Exclusion of teachers from the counties' contributions to the ERS.

  • Clarifying when a county will provide legal representation to a police officer

  • Help preventing homelessness

  • Protecting and encouraging farming.

  • Stimulating the economy

The Hawaii State Association of Counties, a nonprofit group formed by the county councils of the four counties, identified four priorities:

  • Extending the 45-day window for a legislative body to approve, approve with modification, or disapprove an affordable housing project to 90 days.

  • Exempting local governments from state procurement laws and give local governments discretion to use cooperative contracts.

  • Allowing counties to conduct criminal background checks on taxi drivers and applicants for taxi driver’s certificates.

  • Requiring the state to transfer a portion of the fines and forfeitures collected for uncontested traffic infractions to the county in which the violations occurred.