Monday, March 8, 2010

In Favor of HB2200

Floor Remarks By Representative Marilyn Lee
Vice Chair - Committee on Finance

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the measure:

On February 21, 2010, columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times: "A small news item from Tracy, California caught my eye last week. Local station CBS reported that Tracy residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or, there's the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead, they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help. Welcome to the lean years."

Hawaii has not escaped the effect of the US and global recession, and this budget dramatically illustrates the results. This is indeed a lean year.

However, the House Finance committee, ably led by Chair Marcus Oshiro, and supported by a hardworking and research oriented staff, have turned out a responsible yet tough budget to pass over to the Senate.

Members spent many hours going line by line over the budget and were rewarded by being part of a very open and transparent process. Each member had the opportunity for input, and discussions were frank and productive.

Unlike the draft that came down from the 5th floor, the HD1 restores some essential services and does set priorities. And there is no doubt that education, health, human services and agriculture remain at the top of our concerns.

$50 million placed in the budget out of general funds, repeat -- general funds, affirms our conviction that furlough days for our public schools students need to cease. To avoid increasing the number of furlough days to address the budget crisis, the budget identifies areas in which efficiency could be improved. Your Committee has crafted a budget that would involve reductions in POS contracts to spread the burden of general fund shortfalls among those who have been benefitting from private contracts with DOE but have not experienced cuts in funding for those contracts.

Regarding the Mililani High School field turf issue, members should know that this is an example of a true health and safety need for a school that has been generous to a fault in sharing use of its facilities and staff to schools all over the island.

The budget graphically shows, hoever, the huge impact the downturn has head upon departments. Where possible, positions and funds were restored, but funds don't allow for many additions. The Governor's budget has relied on floating payments for critical services down the river -- a quick and dirty solution that families know is not the answer even in their personal finances.

Last week, we passed some creative revenue generating measures, and we look forward to the action the Senate may take, hoping that restoration of some critical programs may be possible through their implementation.

As Tom Friedman states in the New York Times article: "Unfortunately, to lead now is to tram -- services, programs, personnel."

"We have gone from the age of boernment handouts to the age of citizen givebacks, from the age of flying fee to the age of paying for each bag."

To their credit, freshmen members have maintained a stiff upper lip. It wasn't supposed to be like this when they signed up --but they are taking it in stride, doing their homework and explaining to constituents why new programs, projects are not possible this session.

Things will improve. National unemployment figures from last month look better, and local readl estate transactions seem to be perking up. We were blessed that a possible tsunami last week produced only some unusual wave pattersn.

Speaker, this HD1 is just a beginning. The Council on Revenues meets again soon, and we have many difficult decions still to make before the end of the session.

However, I for one have confidence we will be up to the challenge. Therefore, I urge the member's support.

No comments: