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Public confronts Abercrombie over budget-cutting proposals

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 10:13 p.m. HST, Feb 17, 2011

Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he is speaking for the silent majority when he calls for an unpopular tax on pension income, ending Medicare Part B reimbursements for public-worker retirees and spending cuts to welfare and Medicaid to help balance the state budget. Tonight, at a town hall meeting, the governor heard from people who are willing to speak up.

In an informal 90-minute discussion at Pearl Ridge Elementary School, Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz listened as people explained their concerns about the impact of some of the administration's proposals.

"You used the word 'hammering.' You're hammering me," said Manny Mattos, a retired Honolulu police officer who lives in Village Park and is worried about losing his Medicare Part B reimbursement. "It's devastating for us."

Abercrombie assured him that his Medicare proposal, which is on the rocks at the state Legislature, would not affect him, even though the governor's original proposal would have applied to him. The governor has since said he is open to thresholds based on age, income or retirement date, and lawmakers have indicated they may end the Medicare reimbursement for retirees after July.

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