Showing posts with label governor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label governor. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Tuesday morning edition

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, in his first jab at his potential rival for governor in 2010, said yesterday that Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann should put politics aside and concentrate on the city's multibillion-dollar rail project.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann formed a campaign committee to run for governor yesterday, but his potential opponent, Neil Abercrombie, says the mayor should stay put and finish work on the city's rail transit project.

Honolulu has burned up records for eight days with sizzling temperatures.

Ask anyone living on the Big Island about vog and they'll have a story to share.

Hawaii's biggest public workers union on Monday said Gov. Linda Lingle's plan to furlough state workers is illegal and it plans to block it.

When environmental activist Carroll Cox charged last week that Honolulu city crews had been illegally dumping tons of concrete rubble in Ma'ili'ili Stream and threatening the habitat of endangered wildlife, he called the unpermitted activity an outrage.

The Hawaii Public Defender's Office has tentative plans to furlough its employees three Fridays a month, meaning defense attorneys for indigent clients won't be available for criminal court hearings scheduled on those days.

Local telecommunications company Sandwich Isles Communications Inc. said it wants to purchase Hawaiian Telcom Inc. for $400 million.

John W. Goemans achieved a success few attorneys reach when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed his stand against discrimination in the precedent-setting Rice v. Cayetano case.

A contractor doing work on Haleakala Ranch land damaged fiber-optic lines Monday morning, disrupting emergency 911 calls, phone and Internet service for Maui residents, county offices, major resort hotels and businesses.

Even when he's not here, BJ Penn's name is a big draw in Hilo.

Ever wonder what good could possibly come of plastic, or how the waste clogging Kekaha’s landfill might be put to better use?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hawaii fire inspections to be few and far between

Gov. Linda Lingle today signed SB 564, requested by the State Fire Council, decreasing the frequency from once every two years to once every five years for county fire departments to inspect all public buildings other than schools and airports. Fire chiefs can, however, use their discretion and inspect more often.

Public schools will continue to be inspected annually by county fire departments. Airports are the responsibility of the state.

“This bill would allow a county fire department to inspect buildings according to its fire and life safety risk,” said Kenneth G. Silva, Chair of the State Fire Council and Fire Chief of the Honolulu Fire Department, in March 31 testimony to the House Finance Committee. “As our state community and population continue to grow, fire department personnel have not increased proportionately, thus making it difficult, if not impossible, to inspect all buildings in two years.”

No one testified against the measure, and it received unanimous support on every legislative vote.

Top Hawaii Headlines: Wednesday morning edition

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann told his Cabinet and staff yesterday afternoon that he has authorized a committee to explore a potential run for governor in 2010, setting up a possible challenge to U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary.

At an after-work meeting with Cabinet members and supporters last night, Mayor Mufi Hannemann authorized supporters to form an exploratory committee for a run for governor in 2010.

Another ominous sign for the state budget: Revenue collections are coming in even lower than the state Council on Revenues predicted.

Honolulu City Council members meet today to take up the city's operating budget along with a host of fee increases and tax hike proposals, all aimed at making up a $50 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year.

A 22-year-old woman was sentenced yesterday to a year in prison for illegally accessing another woman's medical records and posting on a MySpace page that she had HIV

Expert: Hawaii drivers will pay more for gas this summer

Gov. Linda Lingle signed a new law on Tuesday that makes it illegal to electronically harass or stalk someone using text messages or social networking Web sites.

A discovery of skeletal human remains in the proposed midlevel road corridor likely won't stop the project from proceeding, a Hawaii County official says.

One of Hawaii County Councilwoman Emily Naeole's Keaau constituents didn't like it when she called him "whacky" in a West Hawaii Today article last year and he's filed an ethics complaint.

Three Maui artists and a father-son slack key duo from Waiehu captured the coveted Na Hoku Hanohano award, Hawaii's version of the Grammy, for their recording artistry Tuesday night.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Friday morning edition

On a day rich in political theater, Gov. Linda Lingle stood before several hundred people in the state Capitol and vetoed tax increases she warned would further damage the state's sagging economy.

State lawmakers return to work today -- one day more than usual -- poised to override three of Gov. Linda Lingle's vetoes.

Legislation that would ease the way for implementation of the 4 percent general excise tax on all Internet purchases made from Hawaii is on its way to the governor.

Hawaii's congressional delegation has decided to turn to the past to advance a measure that would give native Hawaiians federal recognition similar to that of American Indians.

Pilot error caused a Cessna to crash June 17 into Mauna Loa on the Big Island, killing all three on board, the National Transportation Safety Board reported yesterday.

O'ahu's latest swine flu victims did not have contact with any of the first three patients and appear to have contracted the disease here, state health officials announced yesterday.

The state Senate briefly revived civil unions yesterday but then quickly voted to amend the bill, a move that killed the bill for this session but led to new promises from majority Democrats that they would try again next year.

Maui County Council members will look at maintaining cuts in the county budget, and setting aside some or all of the hotel tax revenues they now expect to get from the state, when they meet to restore $18 million to the budget next week.

Hawaii County wants to work with its three counterparts in pursuing a single, statewide solution to each county's garbage-disposal challenges.

A tiny high school on the Big Island that provides a free college-preparatory education to students from Pacific island nations expects to shut down at the end of the academic year for lack of funds.

Target is hiring up to 300 people to work in its Big Island store.

Maui Police Commission members heard testimony from 13 people Wednesday morning on the panel's pending decision on the successor to police Chief Tom Phillips, who retires June 1.

To help prevent the extinction of Kaua‘i’s native flora and fauna, the State of Hawai‘i recently added 486 acres of preserved land to the system’s Waimea district, bringing the total size of the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve to 3,579 acres.

Who says it's only for banks? More than 194,000 island residents are getting a little economic stimulus of their own. The federal government is mailing nearly $55 million in checks to Hawaii Social Security recipients.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Governor or Congress? Wanna bet?

So, what’s it gonna be? Governor or Congress-

By 10 a.m. Saturday, it will all become clear. Or as clear as politics gets, anyway.

A few months back, former U.S. Rep. Ed Case asked us what he should be when he grows up. Governor or Congressman?

My bet is Congress. What’s yours?

Case, a Democrat, was representing District 2, composed of rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands. But he gave up his safe seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary. That didn’t go so well, so he sat out the next election.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle is term-limited so she must now step aside. Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona announced his run for governor early and has already amassed a war chest of $1.4 million. Many pundits, however, don’t think he can carry the state to an unprecedented third consecutive GOP term.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann has said, although not in so many words, that he plans to run for governor. Senate President Colleeen Hanabusa has hinted at it as well. But now that the Democratic heavyweight U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie of District 1 has announced his bid for governor, where will the other pieces fall?

My bet is Case runs for Congress. Washington D.C., not Washington Place, is where he really wants to be. It’s a much shorter jump to U.S. Senate from Congress than the governorship, should one of our two 84-year-old senators die or retire in the near future.

Not that either senator has plans to. Not that they’ve been anything but effective in Washington. Akaka has missed a microscopic 3 percent of his roll call votes and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye just 8 percent of his votes since 1990, according to Govtrack.

Inouye is chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. Akaka finally sees his shot at getting recognition for Native Hawaiians into a federal act. So they’re not going to be leaving soon. Or at least willingly.

Still, it’s better to be sitting just a few seats away if they do.

My bet is Congress. What’s yours?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lawmakers face PR nightmare on raises

HONOLULU – Of all the years to get a 36-percent raise.

Hawaii legislators face a PR nightmare this year: trying to justify their $12,808 salary increase while constituents right and left are losing their jobs. The increase, which went into effect Jan. 1, brings lawmakers’ base salaries to $48,708.

A second raise of 3.5 percent is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2010, unless the Legislature passes a bill to suspend it.

The raises were put into place by an independent Commission on Salaries that voters approved on the 2006 ballot. The commission also prescribed pay hikes for the governor and Cabinet, and state judges.

Being a legislator in Hawaii is not considered a full-time job – the legislative session lasts from mid-January to early May and was designed so that “citizen lawmakers,” rather than professional legislators, could bring their particular areas of interest and expertise to the Capitol.

Hawaii lawmakers are by no means the poorest or the best paid, according to a study by the Lexington, Ky-based, Council of State Governments. The council provides policy analysis and tracks national conditions and trends in state governments.

The study, “State Legislator Compensation: A Trend Analysis,” found that the average legislative salary in 2005 was $25,908, and hasn’t kept up with inflation.

Keon Chi, editor-in-chief of CSG’s annual Book of the States, wrote the 38 page report.

“Compensation levels have an impact on recruitment, retention and the work of the legislature,” said Chi in a statement. “If legislators are not paid adequately, then candidates are drawn from a smaller pool. High pay broadens that pool. You can’t expect to attract good candidates with pay that is lower when compared to other jobs and professions.”

But these are tough times, and Gov. Linda Lingle has asked the Legislature to freeze raises for her and her staff, as well as themselves. She says that could save more than $4 million.

But legislative leaders, including House Speaker Calvin Say, D-St. Louis Heights, Wilhelmina Rise, and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, say the raises are long overdue and well deserved. They note that the executive branch and judges have received raises, but the Legislature has received only three raises in 15 years.

“Given those increases and the rates of pay provided to the Executive and Judicial branches, asking legislators to forgo their pay raise places an undue and inequitable burden on the Legislative branch,” Hanabusa said in a statement. “As we address these issues, all concerned have a duty to understand the true facts behind our deliberations, to work within the spirit and letter of our laws, and to avoid creating distracting political conflicts where none exist.”

Lingle’s proposed salary freeze would affect 208 employees, including the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet heads and deputies and justices of the Hawaii Supreme Court and all state court judges.

The administration employees are scheduled for salary hikes of 5 percent on July 1, 2009 and 3.5 percent on July 1, 2010. The justices and judges are scheduled for salary increases of 10 percent in 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2010.

Lingle’s bill, HB 1109, asks state leaders to “lead by example during fiscally challenging times” by deferring for two years the salary increases recommended by the Commission on Salaries for legislators, judges, and senior officials of the executive branch for the next two fiscal years.

Other related bills:

SB 479, filed by Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, by request, requires an across-the-board decrease of the salaries recommended by the commission on salaries for executive branch heads and their deputies, judges and justices, and legislators.

SB 363, by Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, Kahala, abolishes the Salary Commission, while SB 368, also by Slom, proposes constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to suspend the increase in legislative salaries as recommended by the Salary Commission.

HB 1816, by Rep. Della Belatti, D-Tantalus, Makiki, McCully, reduces by 5 percent the current salaries of executive, legislative, and judicial branch employees and freezes salaries of such employees for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. HB 1670, also by Belatti, requires the Commission on Salaries to hold public hearings and provide public notice of each hearing.

SB 221, by Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa, Lower Waipahu, requires the Commission on Salaries to conduct a public hearing on Oahu prior to submitting its recommendations to the Legislature. Democratic Sens. Robert Bunda, Mike Gabbard, and Dwight Takamine, as well as the Republican Sen. Slom, have cosigned on the bill.

Friday, January 9, 2009

State budget down $125 million

The Hawaii Council on Revenues today confirmed some lawmakers’ worst fears – there’s about $125 million less to spend than they thought for the budget year that's already halfway over.

The $125 million must be cut from the FY 2009 budget that ends June 30. Forecasters hope the economy will turn around in time for a 1-percent increase in the FY 2010 budget, but they aren't making any promises.

The projected 3-percent decrease in state revenues for the current FY09 budget is a drastic drop from the 0.5-percent decrease forecast just a few months ago. A percentage point equals about $35 million in revenues.

The cuts are going to be painful, hitting those who need help most. Education and entitlement programs such as those administered by the Department of Health and Department of Human Services account for a whopping 78.4 percent of the state operating budget.

Council on Revenues Chairman Paul Brewbaker will brief legislative money committees on the details of the budget downturn at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Capitol auditorium. The Council reports its latest revenue forecast to the governor and the Legislature on June 1, Sept. 10, Jan. 10, and March 15 of each year.

Governor Linda Lingle wasn't surprised by the news.

"The Council on Revenues’ decision to lower projections is not unexpected given national and global economic conditions, as well as other external factors beyond our control that are impacting Hawaii," Lingle said in a statement. "The lower revenue projections reflect the challenges we will face as a state in the next couple of years, and underscore the need for all of us to work together. "

Hawaii is certainly not alone, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which says only 12 states aren’t expecting budget shortfalls.

“These budget gaps are approaching those seen in the last recession, which were the worst since World War II, and show every sign of growing larger,” NCSL Executive Director William T. Pound said in a statement. "While the data we collected from state legislative fiscal officers are pretty sobering, our discussions with legislative leaders tell us that they expect the problem to only get worse.”

(This article was edited 1/13/09 for clarification following new information).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Grim budget news, times 10

Gov. Linda Lingle has proposed a budget that assumes the economy will dip only half a percentage point during the fiscal year that ends June 30. But lawmakers said Monday they’re expecting revenue losses to be 10 times that.

The House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees held a combined informational session where the Republican governor’s budget director, Georgina Kawamura, briefed them on the Administration’s 2009-2011 spending plan. Briefings on specific departments continue through the week.

But the Council on Revenues, when it meets Friday, could render the current spending plans obsolete. Tax collections have been down 2.6 percent during the first five months of the fiscal year, and the year could end up down 5 percent over the previous year.

That would be $225 million less on a roughly $11 billion budget, compared with the $22.5 million the governor was working with.

If so, an administration spending plan that already cuts 14 percent of discretionary spending could be forced to slice deeper – much deeper.

Democratic majority lawmakers, as expected, had plenty of questions.

But several of them focused on Lingle’s restructuring of the state’s bonds to push about $300 million in annual debt payments eight years into the future, when she will no longer be in office.

“To me, it’s somewhat misleading,” said Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, D-Kauii, Niihau. “We’re just extending our debt.”

“We’re deferring it; we’re not saving it,” said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim. “We’re leaving it to the future to pay it … So it’s not a true savings.”

The Administration will do whatever is necessary to balance the budget, said Kawamura. It’s an ongoing process, she said.

“We cannot do it by cuts alone,” Kawamura said. “It is agony for us in regards to what we have to do every day to get a balanced fiscal plan.”