Governor takes action after budget bills don't add up

Published On: Jun 09 2014 06:58:57 PM HST   Updated On: Jun 09 2014 11:34:51 PM HST

Gov. Neil Abercrombie held a news conference Monday to highlight differences between the state's capital improvement bill and the bond authorization bill that accompanies it.

Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's story.

The amounts appropriated in both bills are supposed to match, but that wasn't the case when lawmakers passed both measures in late April.

"You have to check the boxes; you have to do the math – that didn't happen," said the governor, who was flanked by state Attorney General David Louie and Budget and Fiscal Director Kalbert Young.

The discrepancy between the two bills has resulted in a state deficit of $444 million. The capital improvement bill totaled $3.53 billion, while the bond authorization bill set aside another $3.09 billion.

"You certainly don't want to have a situation where you have authorized a certain amount of money and then you've spent a lot more," said Louie. "That would be improper and illegal."

To resolve the issue Abercrombie will allow $399 million in a Department of Education fund to lapse on July 1, while cutting another $46 million from the DOE's budget for fiscal year 2016. The state educational facilities improvement fund, or SEFI, is used by DOE to construct new facilities or refurbish existing ones.  

Under the plan set forth by Abercrombie, state lawmakers in the House and Senate will be asked to reauthorize appropriations for the SEFI fund during the next legislative session. The amount cannot surpass $353 million, which would account for the $46 million cut by the governor.

"This approach is surgical in the sense that it will only impact one part of the overall budget," said Young. "The SEFI appropriation is large enough to accommodate a $45 (million) to $46 million reduction without impacting government operations."  

Assistant Superintendent for School Facilities and Support Services Ray L'Heureux said the lapsing and cutting of funds would not impact DOE initiatives as long as lawmakers give it back.

"If the legislature does not in the next session reconstitute this $46 million, then we'll have a different question to answer," L'Heureux told reporters.   

When it comes to laying blame for the accounting error, the governor told reporters to contact House and Senate lawmakers.

However Senate President Donna Mercado Kim refused to pinpoint culpability, and said the budget involves both chambers of the legislature as well as the Department of Budget and Finance.

"It's a joint effort," said Mercado Kim. "When that number came out, I guess somehow somebody missed it."

However House Finance chairperson Rep. Sylvia Luke was more direct. She said the governor's lack of funding for the purchase of 665 acres of Turtle Bay conservation land left lawmakers scrambling for answers as budget negotiations were about to close.

"Because of the last minute request a lot of things had to move, so I'm not surprised there was a discrepancy," Luke told KITV4 by phone.

Ways and Means chairman Sen. David Ige issued a statement late Monday saying he agreed with the approach that's being taken to fix the budget bills. Ige is mounting a campaign against Abercrombie to unseat him as governor. 

“I became aware of the technical errors in the State Budget and the bond authorization bill last week, and have worked with the Department of Budget and Finance and House and Senate leadership to develop the alternatives to correct the errors," said Ige.  "We have agreed on the actions required and avoided a special session that would increase costs. 


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