March 26, 2009

Lingle’s “budget” has $278M hole – that may or may not exist and may or may not need filling

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:43 pm

Am I missing something, or is the Governor’s latest attempt at a budget yet another non-starter? First, I’ll note again that it’s foolish (and I’m speaking to both the Executive and Legislative branches here) to write budgets while there are collective bargaining agreements still unresolved, but that silliness happens regularly… Second, if the Lege drafts a budget that raises revenues or includes lay-offs of government workers, then the calculus at the collective bargaining talks changes. The House has already passed its draft of the budget that does those things, and the Senate draft probably will, too. The Governor submitted her (half-baked) budgets so late that she might as well have foregone submitting them at all. Now, whatever budget that passes will certainly not be anything resembling her “budget,” and she and her administration surely recognize(d) that fact. Thus, the Lingle administration has been freed to posture and to throw red meat to the masses (with talk of no new taxes, no lay-offs, pay and benefit cuts for public workers, etc.). That said, I don’t think the government employee unions are likely to agree to Lingle’s givebacks until they see what the alternative fiscal scenario from the Lege would be. Furthermore, since the counties and the unionized county workers are also part of the collective bargaining process, the Governor’s “take these pay and benefit cuts or face lay-offs” stance is not going to present a genuine risk to the rank and file unionized county workers. I have not heard of any Mayor(s) issuing a similar ultimatum. Have you?

On the “other” topic of the day, the Senate’s failure to recall the Civil Unions bill confirmed my cynical fears. How the Senate went from a (so-called) majority of support for the bill to only six votes in favor of the recall can’t be spun: too many duplicitous cowards. Oh well. Props to the six who voted in favor, and bigger props to Senator Hooser for his effort.


  1. These are scary times for quite a few people. Displacement of government workers sends them right into the unemployment office. And since the unionized civil service workforce is based entirely on seniority, the lowest earning workers will get laid off.

    In this system, you got to lay off quite a few to get an traction on the budget. Factor in that the differential between their current pay and their unemployment benefit is not too large, we are talking a disaster for the bottom end of our civil servants with very little gain.

    This comes at time when we are not too far away from having large numbers leave the state through retirement. As much as state workers are criticized, there is an overall productive and positive culture among the rank and file. Let’s hope are leaders have the wisdom not to destroy this.

    Comment by David — March 26, 2009 @ 6:55 pm

  2. Maybe Hooser can use that same courage to step up and say what all those other wimpy politicians know needs to happen, but cant bring themselves to say out-loud: Raise Taxes.

    If he did that – I would hand him the award for the man with the biggest set of them all!

    Comment by hipoli — March 26, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

  3. I think after the analysis on Larry Geller’s blog about the misinformation about recalling bills and majorities and Les Ihara’s discussion in the Advertiser article, it became clear that the delay represented a truth other than a majority supporting the bill.

    Comment by line of flight — March 26, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

  4. Doug and lineofflight both cast doubts on the willingness of a majority of senators to pass civil unions. The Legislature is a place of “smoke and mirrors,” “plausible deniability” and misdirection. It is a difficult place to get firm commitments or to understand the pressures/inducements/ changes of circumstances which might cause a legislator to abandon a pledge they have made.

    Early in the session, I received an unambiguous commitment from Hanabusa she would work to pass the bill through the senate. She reneged on her pledge a started working behind the scenes to sow doubt and fear among Senate Democrats and twisting arms to reduce support for the motion to pull.

    I received an unambiguous pledge from Brian Taniguchi to vote “Yes, with reservations” the motion to pull. He reaffirmed that pledge to multiple people over the course of three weeks, including a reassurance given 2 days before the floor vote. I know Brian to be a man of integrity and a strong supporter of equal rights. I also know he reluctantly reneged on his pledge at the Senate President’s “request.”

    Hanabusa will hide behind a claim that a majority secretly did not want the bill to pass. I think that is a half-truth which should not be encouraged as it ignores the active role the Senate President played in encouraging the doubts and fears of Senators.

    Her final gambit was her dishonest use of the Kerrigan lawsuit in CT, which led to that state’s Supreme Court overturning a Civil Unions law very similar to HB444. Some people complain too many legislators are lawyers. Here we see the danger of having too few. To the best of my knowledge, Hanabusa is the only practicing attorney in the Senate. On occasion, she uses her status to mislead her fellow senators on legal matters. Using a typical “lawyer trick”, she raised the Kerrigan caase at the very last minute as a tacatic to throw her opponents off-balance. Jon Van Dyke demolished the notion a similar lawsuit here would be successful here, pointing out the OBVIOUS differernce between the two state constitutions. Apparently Hanabusa forgot the 1998 constitutional amendment explicitly granting the Legislature the power to restrict marriage to opposite gender couples. Connecticut, of course, has no such language in their constitution. Duh! Would the amendment “protect” the State against an “equal protection” lawsuit like Kerrigan? Check the record. It already has. Beahr v. Miike was rendered “moot” after passage and dismissed.

    I respect the ability of attorney’s to engage in sophistry on behalf of their clients. The skill is essential to our adversarial legal system. If one lawyer advances a clever but spurious argument and the other attorney is unable to see through it, we can rely upon a judge to help sort things out. That same tactic, used by a highranking policymaker like the Senate President to mislead her colleagues and misrepresent the law, is an “unappetizing” abuse.

    Comment by kolea — March 27, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

  5. The presiding officer of a legislative body is the symbolic representative of the majority. When I see legislators using magic rules and mystical riddles to explain their inability to exercise their legislative prerogative, that is nothing short of ambivalence if not a total split between the persona and the self. Of course, those that think the legislature is about justice, equity, fairness, or any other noble idea, should always feel betrayed and disappointed by the legislature.

    Comment by line of flight — March 27, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  6. yes, props to sen hooser. he stood up and against the tide; reminds me of the superferry and act 2. he was in the minority then as well. history will show that he has been on the right side of things a majority of times irregardless of how his ‘colleagues’ voted. hb 444 maybe dead this season but the fight for justice and the righteous cause remains. public servants like the senator from wailua deserve recognition for going above and beyond what is expected of them. hanabusa lost my vote and respect. i hope she and lingle find their way to other careers after this is said and done.

    Comment by jimmy t — March 28, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  7. Doug, I read your analysis again five days later and now it all makes perfect sense.

    Seems almost certain our leaders will not find the maturity and wisdom to be proactive on this one.

    We are headed for lose – lose. If this is where they take it, I expect that I will not vote during the next election and just join the ranks of who cares and I heard enough.

    Comment by David — March 31, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

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