January 11, 2009

House hired less session staff?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:59 am

Buried at the end of Borreca’s Star-Bulletin column today:

Finally, here’s some good news: a veteran legislative worker who is saving money. Patricia Mau-Shimizu, the House Clerk, was told to cut the House budget.

She renegotiated contracts with vendors, cut back on new capital expenses, told House workers to take vacation time if they wanted Christmas [Eve, I hope] and New Year’s Eve off. She decided the state House didn’t need so many workers and just generally sucked it up.

The end result was a 10 percent reduction in the House budget. Total savings: $1.2 million.

So it can be done and without the Enron accounting schemes.

Translation: Savings can easily be made if you’re willing to “find savings” at the expense of the workers. Sorry, make that “at the expense of the non-unionized workers of the House.”

Hey, House insiders, care to explain what this 10% cut meant in terms of hiring? Less money allocated for each office to hire session staff could mean the same number of staff (but with even more modest salaries), or it could simply mean fewer staff were hired. The Lege is not going to have any less work this year than in a non-recession year, so the staff will have to do at least as much work with less pay and/or fewer co-workers. As if session workers were ever known to be slackers. [Well, except for staff working for powerless dissident or Minority legislators. Heh.]


  1. Presto! Money for those raises. Or at least so Speaker can say that he saved taxpayer money double the amount of those raises. To me, smart move, House leadership.

    I havent seen it yet in living colour, so I dont know really how exactly this cut is really being applied, but I simply cant imagine paying these session hires less. Goodness, that would be cruel. Add up the hours and some of those staff literally make minimum wage. If this ‘cut’ is realized in fewer session staff, then so be it. That is certainly a viable cost-saving step. However, I would then suggest that committee chair staff members be required (as in – not optional) to help out their vice-chair staff with hearings.

    But the real question is – wheres the house end-of-session party going to be this year?

    Comment by hipoli — January 11, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

  2. duh.

    Less spending means less spending. Even if the money was spent on beer and pretzels, it would come out of someone’s hide. Precisely how would you cut a budget without impacting anyone economically?

    DOUG: I notice that you phrase it as “cut a budget” instead of “balance a budget,” which loads the question in your favor, no?

    Comment by anon — January 12, 2009 @ 12:14 am

  3. My understanding is that the savings comes from a variety of ways such as:

    1) charging for copies of bills, a cost that was absorbed by the House budget in the past;
    2) eliminating out-of-state travel as a line item;
    3) hiring of session staff as of Jan. 5 unlike previous years where roughly half the session
    staff started a few weeks earlier;
    4) the items as mentioned in the column.

    There has been no reduction in the allotment for staff salaries so legislators are free
    to hire as they have in the past so comments about having to do more with less do not apply.

    DOUG: Mahalo for the 411, Charles!

    Comment by charles — January 12, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  4. oh, Charles, you show-off!

    Comment by hipoli — January 12, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  5. “I notice that you phrase it as “cut a budget” instead of “balance a budget,” which loads the question in your favor, no?”

    if you ignore a major recession which is resulting in a big reduction in govt revenues are you loading the question in your favor? I just assumed the idea that revenues are way down means balancing=cutting, unless you are proposing to raise taxes to hold the line on session expenses? That would be a tough sell.

    DOUG: No, if you had read what I have written, then you would see that I’m saying take it is possible to take the cuts from other branches of government. There is no logic to an across-the-branches reduction. Cut deeper where there is more fat.

    Comment by anon — January 15, 2009 @ 12:14 am

  6. This reminds me of the annual office supply bonanza that (used to) occur(s) in most UH offices come March or April when the office supply line item (had)/has not been properly spent and massive 13 month supply orders went out to Hopaco for paper, pens, highlighters and strange office supply trinkets that would somehow have disappeared by July. I was told that those line items not expended were cut. From my calculations, most UH departments could have trim 20% of their budgets without affecting anyone. 10% is really a shame with those kinds of material conditions.

    Comment by line of flight — January 15, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  7. Can’t speak for the House, but the Senate has cut staff pretty much across the board, which led to a lot more competition for the remaining House openings. There are offices in the Senate (and the House) that have resorted to hiring multiple aides at part-time pay to replace what would normally be a single-person full-time position. There are less staff, and probably the same amount, if not more, of work. Bottom line, less staff + more work = even MORE poorly written and researched bills. This will be a great year to push through ill-conceived ideas.

    Comment by Shlomo — January 20, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

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