POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 1, 2011
A fierce battle is under way at the top of the Hawaii political food chain with the forces of Gov. Neil Abercrombie fighting to restore state government to the days before Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.
To Abercrombie and his executives, the days of Lingle were an “evisceration” of government services. Amy Asselbaye, Abercrombie’s chief of staff, warned senators Monday to not “return to the policy of short-changing the public on basic services that they expect and need from government.”
“We cannot continue cutting government and then act surprised and outraged when things don’t work,” Asselbaye said.
In contrast, eight years ago Lingle used her first State of the State speech to proclaim, “The status quo is no longer acceptable,” adding that she would usher in a “new beginning,” that encouraged competition, lowered taxes and made it easier for business to deliver what people wanted.
Below the rhetoric, beneath Abercrombie and Lingle’s Olympian battlefield, another war is being fought.
It is not the battle of the budget — it is the battle of no budget and the consequences of a state running out of money.
State department directors during Monday’s hearing also told the story of how the proposed budget cuts will affect the state.
The attorney general is losing $250,000 needed for the statewide automated fingerprint system.
“It is without any maintenance and would shut down because it needs daily tending,” interim Attorney General David Louie said.
At the same time, funding to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, which records what happens to people after they are arrested, is also going to be cut.
“We are also getting regular calls from police dispatch doing a background check for the officers on the street making a stop,” Louie said, explaining that the system is so overworked, it cannot respond.
Anyone with a computer can relate to the mini-disaster of a computer crash that wipes out everything you had on the hard drive, but when it is the state flirting with the same problem, it is cause for concern.
Kealii Lopez, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs director, says that since December, “the storage area network currently being used by the entire DCCA staff including the neighbor island offices is no longer supported by the manufacturer since the product was purchased prior to 2004.”
If that system crashes, it could affect the 300,000 regulated businesses “spanning 13 key areas and the consumers and clients of these regulated businesses.”
Even Abercrombie’s prized civil unions law is headed for trouble because of the budget crisis.
Even though “passage of the civil unions bill was a top priority of the new administration,” said state Health Director Loretta Fuddy, “the reduction would result in postponing the implementation of the civil unions certificate issuance statewide system.
“Currently, the program does not have sufficient staff to even administer and maintain the current statewide birth, death and marriage registration and certificate issuance system,” she said.
The issue now is not whether or not to grow or cut government; it is, simply: “Where’s the money?”
Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.