Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Abercrombie to release social services funding

Gov. Linda Lingle has held up the spending, citing financial woes

By Derrick DePledge


Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie told state Senate Democrats yesterday that he plans to release $23.7 million from the state's rainy day fund to help more than three-dozen social-service programs.

State lawmakers approved the use of the money this year to stabilize programs such as Kupuna Care, which assists the elderly so they do not have to live in care homes, and Healthy Start, which provides advice to new mothers to reduce the risk of child abuse.

Gov. Linda Lingle has declined to release the money because of the state's uncertain finances.

"It was clearly the intent of the Legislature that those funds be utilized in this emergency," Abercrombie said after a private meeting with Senate Democrats at the state Capitol. "And I fully intend to cooperate with the Legislature. I think that's where the change comes in. It's not a matter of the executive and the Legislature dueling with one another. It's a matter of each meeting their responsibilities on behalf of the public interest."

Abercrombie also told the senators he would prefer to appoint members to the state Board of Education, subject to Senate confirmation, rather than have nominees first screened by a selection advisory council.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment this month to move from an elected to an appointed school board. But Lingle vetoed the implementing legislation, so lawmakers will have to draft a new bill next session and will likely use the advisory council framework as a starting point.

Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Kahului) said senators made no commitments on the school board or other issues. "Hopefully, we can start on building things and working in a more collaborative fashion," he said.

Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kaneohe-Kahuku), who served with Abercrombie in the Senate two decades ago, said Abercrombie is intimately familiar with the legislative branch of government and the way it functions.

"He doesn't intend to interfere with that," he said. "He wants to work with the Legislature. He wants to preempt any issues that may arise."

Abercrombie said he would meet with House Democrats after they have their leadership in place.

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