GOP state Senator proposes smaller budget


HONOLULU — Hawaii’s lone Republican in the State Senate on Friday proposed a smaller state budget than what his Democratic counterparts approved in a longshot move to make the argument the state is headed for fiscal disaster if it doesn’t change course.

Sen. Sam Slom’s proposed budget calls for $795 million less in spending than the $12 billion budget the state Senate passed Monday. He said the state has to come up with a realistic budget that is balanced in the long run and addresses the state’s approximately $20 billion in unfunded liabilities for retirement and health benefits.

“If we don’t, we are going to run out of cash, we’re going to run out of options, we are going to have our best and brightest leaving us,” Slom said.

Slom’s proposal calls for $207 million in cuts to the education and health departments and the University of Hawaii. The health department would get less money for mental health programs for children and adults. Education cuts would be made to administrative positions, not to classrooms. Another $110 million would come from removing vacant positions, and $315 million more would be slashed from an across-the-board cut to special funds.

That would leave the state with a projected balance of $486 million in fiscal year 2019, he said.

Slom made the proposal even while acknowledging it was likely to go nowhere.

“Is our approach going to get much traction? The answer is, ‘No,’” Slom said. “But that’s a choice people make.”

Slom said he wants to inform people about financial problems the state could face down the road.

“Folks that keep worrying about cuts should be more worried about wasteful spending that’s going on,” Slom said.

Both chambers have approved different versions of the state budget, so lawmakers will negotiate details in conference committee meetings that are likely to begin next week.