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Hannemann: Abercrombie should identify program funding

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Mufi Hannemann on Monday called on his rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Neil Abercrombie, to explain how state government would pay for the new programs Abercrombie is proposing.

At a news conference, Hannemann said some of Abercrombie’s proposals as outlined in a 45-page campaign booklet are worth supporting.

But Hannemann said Abercrombie has failed to say how a state government that has suffered significant budget cuts over the last two years can finance the proposals Abercrombie is touting.

Voters constantly ask him how much Abercrombie’s proposals would cost, Hannemann said. “We put pen to hand and what we came up with, just two pages alone, is over $280 million. That should concern all of us,” Hannemann added.

Abercrombie spokeswoman Laurie Au said, “Neil’s plan doesn’t call for spending more; it calls for spending what we have more wisely. It lays out steps that will encourage economic growth and restore public confidence in government.”

Hannemann’s criticism of the cost of Abercrombie’s proposals in the days leading to Saturday’s primary election could help him attract votes of conservatives and Republicans. In Hawaii’s open primary, registered voters can request any party’s ballot.

“I have a record that people of the other party also have admired,” said Hannemann, a former mayor of Honolulu. “I’ve worked in two Republican (presidential) administrations. I’ve been known as a fiscal conservative.”

“I’m very proud to be a Democrat,” he added. “But we’re going after all voters.”

Last week, the executive director of the state Republican Party urged GOP voters not to meddle in the Democratic primary.

Dylan Nonaka said there’s talk among Republicans about voting for Hannemann because he is considered more moderate or for Abercrombie because he may make an easier target for the GOP nominee in November. But Nonaka said neither strategy has worked in the past and won’t work this year.

An independent poll last week commissioned by Honolulu Civil Beat found Hannemann significantly trailing Abercrombie among Democrats and independent voters, but well ahead with Republicans.

However, Hawaii does not register voters by party, making it difficult to know how many Republicans reside in a state that has long been a Democratic bastion.

Abercrombie’s proposals to create a Department of Early Childhood from existing agencies, restore the Healthy Start program, provide onsite child care for state workers and offer universal prenatal care would cost $212 million, Hannemann’s campaign contended.

Hannemann also said Abercrombie’s proposals to forgive school loans to doctors who work for community health centers and re-establishing the University of Hawaii’s public health school would cost $72 million.

Hannemann said he first wants to audit state government to identify efficiencies that would free up money for existing and new programs.

The former mayor also indirectly defended supporters who have bought radio ads and mailed fliers criticizing Abercrombie for not declaring a religious affiliation.

“I think everything a candidate is for — his values, his background, his experience, his qualifications — is fair game for evaluation,” Hannemann said.

He defended his campaign’s newspaper ads featuring laudatory remarks by U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye — even though both Democrats are neutral in the governor’s race. Abercrombie criticized it for creating a “false impression” the senators back Hannemann.

“We cleared it. (The senators) knew about it. They approved it,” Hannemann said.

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