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CONSENT of the GOVERNED PROJECT

to change the county charter  and restore sovereignty to every citizen.

Recent quotes from three of our own county council members on their positions as elected officials are revealing as to how they view their proper roles : 

“it sometimes takes a law to change people's behavior”

 "Sometimes I have to be forced to do things that are right and I don't want to.”

 (I need) “to take charge, to lead our County, to define policy in the best interests of the people of our island. “

Frightening, isn't it !


Our county government lately has taken on 3 roles:

  • Administrative (such as determining how many police to hire, or where a road should go, or how to process garbage). This is an appropriate level of authority and responsibility for them to play.
  • Telling us what things we CAN NOT do i.e.:restricting our rights, more so every year
  • Taking our money: i.e.: taxes and fees

We the people have delegated out elected officials the power to be administrators, but we have NOT delegated them the power to restrict our lives and take our money without our permission.

The Consent of the Governed acts will restore forever this authority and sovereignty to the people of the Big Island.

 

 

IN PRESS
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Sunday
Sep192010

Mrs. Linda Smith, (Sept 2010),The State Economy: how this administration managed the worst fiscal crises in state history without raising taxes”.

Ms. Linda Smith, Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Linda Lingle, gave the September address to the Conservative Forum for Hawaii on “The State Economy: how this administration managed the worst fiscal crises in state history without raising taxes”.

Ms. Smith sketched out the ugly financial truth that slammed Hawaii in 2008, when the global financial crisis came home here. The State Council on Revenues was projecting a 2009 budget gap of $3 billion due to declining tax revenues, a huge blow when the annual operating budget was $5.2 billion. Not only that, they projected that 2008 revenues would remain depressed and not return to 2008 levels until at least 2012. The outlook was grim.

She also mapped out in brief the last 10-year history of the state finances. From 1999 to 2009, the state revenues grew $1.76 billion. Where did all that money go? How come it wasn’t spent repairing and maintaining schools, and highways, and harbors and other needed projects? What happened to all that money?

78% of the increase went to cumulative collective bargaining agreements totaling $1.37 billion. In the last 10 years, only 22% of the increase in tax revenues to the state was spent on non-personnel areas.

60% of the entire state operating budget is related to personnel costs: wages, benefits and pensions. 55% of the operating budget is for education (DOE and UH). If significant savings were to be found, these obviously had to be significant factors to be addressed, as non-personnel and non-education were not the major budget areas.

Governor Lingle realized that raising taxes would not be helpful when the economy was in a downturn. (In fact, although the legislature passed an income tax rate increase 1 ½ years ago, actual tax revenues continue to decline as the economy did also.)

The Lingle administration instead approached the problem through a combination of cost cutting and targeted efficiencies.

Ms. Smith went through the list: across the board spending cuts uniformly for all executive branch agencies, refinancing/restructuring of the state debt (as interest rates were very low), the acceptance of one-time Federal “stimulus” money (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act), abolishment of some programs that were unaffordable or duplicative, cutting all department purchases and travel, reduction if force (RIF: trimming employee numbers) furloughs and transfers, special funds appropriations.

Some areas were problematic: early retirements increase spending in the short term, as retirees get compensated for accrued vacation and can leave gaps that require training of new employees to fill.

Federal funds and raiding state special funds are one-shot revenue sources, and cannot be used again. And unfunded liabilities for state personnel retirement plans and retirement health plans still total nearly $14 billion. Many personnel areas remain problematic: retirees get paid based on the average of their last 3 years salaries, not the average of their entire employment, and many are artificially boosted by taking university positions where there are no salary limits as in the civil service. Retirees get 100% healthcare coverage for life, and some in years past 100% for their spouse also. Because of contractual seniority status, any employee laid off can bump a less senior person and take their job instead, so the ultimate lay-off is not the highest paid senior person but the lowest paid junior one. In addition, if the senior person (such as a manger) takes over a junior job (such as a clerks), they still command the same salary they were earning in their original higher-paid position.

Efficiencies were found where ever they could, and creativity was encouraged.  A guiding principle was to promote and encourage self-sufficiency, and avoid dependency on state services.

She listed many examples:

  •         The SEE (Supporting Employment Empowerment) program was introduced, where employers who hired people on public assistance (which can last up to 60 months per Federal law) were subsidized by minimum wage and their healthcare insurance for one year. Employers got an inexpensive labor source, the employee’s got the chance of entrance to the job market and training to make them self-sustainable in the future, and the state saved $millions over the usual cost of flat-out welfare.
  • Foster homes:  an alarming number of children were being placed in foster homes, which was recognized as treating the symptoms not the disease. Early intervention in at-risk homes was initiated, and the number has declined by 1/3, and the instances of abuse have declined dramatically, for which the director Lillian Koller won a national award.
  •         Public-private partnerships: such as public housing project Kuhio Park terrace, all the 800+ units repaired and operated by a private company as public housing, in return for them placing additional units on the market
  •         The Department of Hawaiian Homelands: where many applicants would be on waiting lists for homes for 30, 40 even 80 years. This was the ultimate in dependency modes. They instituted a home ownership assistance program, which prepared applicants for designated developments in the skills of managing budgets, bank accounts and preparing for home ownership, so when the infrastructure and house was completed, they were ready to own their own home in a sustainable manner. In the last 8 years more Hawaiians were placed in homes by this approach than in the entire 80 years preceding.
  •         Use of sea-urchins spread over the reefs in Kaneohe Bay as algae control, so that state employees did not have to go and physically clean the reefs of algae every year as they had been doing.

Ms Smith then answered questions from the audience:

One query was that if the proposed railway on Oahu was now at $6 billion (which Mayor Peter Carlisle promises to build), and a mandated Federal sewer project was $5 billion, Honolulu city with an operating budget of $1.6 billion couldn’t afford it, and they would come to the state for assistance, which would lead to Big Island citizens being taxed to pay for those Honolulu projects.

Ms. Smith replied that the governor was very concerned about the affordability of the rail, especially as universally none are self-sufficient and all require subsidies, and so her review of the EIS included a financial review as well. If it were not proven to be affordable, she would not sign off on it.

A DOE teacher commented that he “commended them for holding the line on DOE furloughs, as the only alternative would have been lay-offs and then increased class sizes” which would have harmed education further, and “It was the correct choice”. 

Ms. Smith commented that the problem with the DOE was not the lack of money for education, for the amount was considerable, but how it was miss-spent. She advocated an expanded role for charter schools as a more efficient way to educate, with “dollars attached to the children, so that funding would go where the parents wished their children to go.” She expected Lapahoehoe to become a charter school very soon.

A question was asked about the failure of the Superferry, and the EIS for that. MS. Smith replied that they reasoned that as Matson, Young Brothers and Souse Brothers were already in operation with ships along the same routes from the same ports and at similar speeds without requiring an EIS, the Superferry wouldn’t either. Lingle was booed on Maui for her Superferry support, but she believed it was the right thing to do. Despite their legal advice on this, the state Supreme Court held otherwise, which has been a big loss to everyone.

Asked about the future for the state under a new administration next year, she stated that they had been very fortunate to have Linda Lingle as governor, with her fiscaly conservative and responsible policies, and that if Lt. Governor Duke Aiona was elected governor, the same fiscaly conservative and efficient trends started by Lingle would continue. “That’s the kind of asset I want, not someone who lives in Washington D.C. with a printing press (for money), without financial accountability”.