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State lawmakers to examine special funds

By Anita Hofschneider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:49 p.m. HST, Jun 03, 2013

The state House Finance Committee is re-evaluating the use of special funds in the months leading up to the next legislative session.

State departments have hundreds of separate accounts channeling money into specific initiatives, and it needs more attention and oversight, Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said.

Luke said she wants the committee to perform thorough research now so it can tackle the issue when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Special funds are created to provide dedicated revenue streams for particular initiatives, but critics say the funds don't always stay true to their original purpose. Fiscal conservatives have been calling for greater scrutiny of the money for decades.

Lowell Kalapa from the Tax Foundation of Hawaii said lawmakers use the accounts to circumvent the state's constitutional limit to general fund spending, allowing the government to grow faster than it should.

The funds, he said, lack accountability because they aren't analyzed as carefully as general fund appropriations, and no one knows exactly how much money is in them.

Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a conservative think tank, estimated special funds contained $1.4 billion in unspent revenue in 2010.

"We're talking about a lot of money," Luke said.

Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican member of the state's 25-person Senate, has been refusing to vote for new special funds since he joined the Legislature 17 years ago.

Slom said he's glad to hear the House is formally investigating the accounts, following a trend of increasing scrutiny in the last few years in both chambers.

"It is a poor budgeting method," he said. "It hides a lot of money from taxpayers."

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loquaciousone wrote:
This is like your electrician hooking up a line to run your washer, dryer, refrigerator, deep freezer, and your air conditioners all on one "dedicated" line.
on June 3,2013 | 02:15PM
serious wrote:
Yes, and putting a penny in the fuse opening.
on June 3,2013 | 02:26PM
st1d wrote:
more like after all that, the state comes in and tells you that your line must now be hooked up to support homes where people choose not to work or pay their bills.
on June 3,2013 | 04:29PM
copperwire9 wrote:
You just can't help yourself, can you?
on June 3,2013 | 07:06PM
allie wrote:
It is another example of very poor budget planning out here. Slom is right: it has gone on for decades and nothing is ever done.
on June 3,2013 | 03:26PM
Sat wrote:
Representative Syliva Luke is demonstrating great leadership in her role as the Chairperson of the House Finance Committee. We all ought to get behind her effort of exercising the proper stewardship in managing our tax dollars and the special fees that are collected every year. She certainly has my full support.
on June 3,2013 | 06:37PM
Sat wrote:
P.S. For those who have been following Rep. Luke's political career, most would agree with me that she is not beholden to special interest groups. He focus has always been on the good of the general public and is unafraid to make decisions that serves that purpose. I have much hope that she will be a positive force in getting the State to some level of fiscal sanity.
on June 3,2013 | 06:43PM
sailfish1 wrote:
This should be interesting - What are they going to do if the special fund money is not there? Our government is notorious for raiding special fund money
on June 3,2013 | 07:11PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Another of my comments sent for approval: “The primary purpose for lawmakers evaluating special funds is to determine how much money they can divert to pet projects to support their reelections.” Can someone explain why it was sent for approval?
on June 4,2013 | 06:44AM
Oio wrote:
Senator Slom strikes me as a self-declared "public critic" paid by tax-payers. Frankly, being a sole Republican isn't testimony for being effective. For a man who has been in the Legislature for over 17-years, one should wonder if his often two-sentence statements about the state of government affairs justifies his pay as a Senator. After 17-years I would expect more than a statement: "It is a poor budgeting method," he (Slom) said. "It hides a lot of money from taxpayers." If he's implying that his single vote against is going to save the tax-papers $1.4 Billion, he's stroking the system. I think taxpayers would rather pay a Senator who came up with a $1.4 Billion solution rather than just hear a do-nothing two-sentence criticism of basically do-nothing. Our public officials are no longer exempt from proving themselves. If they're gonna dish it out, they are expected to put out themselves.
on June 3,2013 | 07:31PM
bikemom wrote:
Have you ever been interviewed for a news story? They only take bits and pieces of what is said. My guess is that Senator Slom said plenty more about special funds, but those quotes weren't used.
on June 3,2013 | 08:45PM
localguy wrote:
Oio - How little you know and understand our bureaucrats. Sam Sloan has always tried to make tax payer money more accountable and only spent on core government requirrements. Not the personal, special interest projects other kowtowing bureaucrats support. Next time you post have something to say that makes sense. Rookie posters......
on June 3,2013 | 10:53PM
bender wrote:
How does a single GOP Senator get any legislationi passed (put out, as you state it). If you've been around anytime at all, you would know that GOP lawmakers don't stand a snowball's chance in hades of ever getting any meaningful legislation passed. All he can do is is cast the symbolic nay vote as his counterparts establish more and more special funds.
on June 4,2013 | 05:35AM
localguy wrote:
More attention and oversight? What Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke really means is she has been directed by our dysfunctional bureaucrats to find ways to make it easier and quieter to raid the funds to cover their pet projects. They think these funds are there just for their use, a part of being a bureaucrat, money to spend. Do what ever it takes to simplify accounting and transparency of tax payer's money. If you can't, then give it back. No reason for bureaucrats to profit off of our hard earned tax money. All they do is spend, spend, spend.
on June 3,2013 | 10:50PM
sailfish1 wrote:
The lawmakers want to know how much money is in the special funds so they can RAID it and use it for what it is NOT intended for.
on June 4,2013 | 04:50AM
bender wrote:
It will be interesting to see what might be proposed after they establish how much money is stashed in all these special funds. But it seems they should know this already, otherwise how can they continue to divert money without knowing what they have. Will there be a tax holiday? Will a good number of those special funds be terminated. Each and everyone of them should be evaluated as to whether they should be included in the general budget. One thing for sure, there will be a lot of government unions scrambling to protect those jobs being funded by special funds from getting the ax.
on June 4,2013 | 05:39AM
Ronin006 wrote:
The primary purpose for lawmakers evaluating special funds is to determine how much money they can divert to pet projects to support their reelections.
on June 4,2013 | 06:42AM
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