Gov. Neil Abercrombie is sounding the alarm that “conditions have changed dramatically” in the local economy since the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster in Japan. It’s a fair assessment of the challenges to come, but if he sees it as a chance to wiggle out of campaign promises on the state budget and taxes, not so fast.
Abercrombie promised to achieve more with less by reallocating and re-prioritizing. He said he’d bring in more federal funding to supplement local revenues. He was adamant that his proposals wouldn’t cost more and promised “without equivocation” not to raise the general excise tax.
Candidate Abercrombie didn’t leave himself room for later claiming that things were worse than he thought; he scoffed at his opponents’ proposals for audits to sort out state finances, assuring us that he didn’t need an audit to know the score and was ready to hit the ground running.
The backtracking started soon after he was sworn in.
After saying repeatedly during the campaign that he’d work with what he had, he declared in his State of the State that the government is “underresourced” and proposed new taxes and fees including unpopular levies on pensions and soda pop.
There was scarce mention of reallocating and re-prioritizing or new federal funds, and his subsequent budget proposed hundreds of millions in new spending based on a contention that the situation was worse than his all-knowing campaign persona thought.
The governor started beating the drums for an excise tax increase weeks before the Council on Revenues expanded the state deficit to nearly $1 billion and the Japan crisis caused fears that it could go higher.
There’s been a clear attempt to shift the conversation from reallocating and re-prioritizing to restoring state services, which means ending the public worker furloughs instituted by the Lingle administration.
Abercrombie said he’d pay for that by getting state workers to accept straight 5 percent pay cuts in place of the furloughs, although we haven’t heard a lot more about that lately.
There’s no arguing that the crisis in Japan is cause for great concern, but let’s put first things first.
Before the governor slips off the hook on his campaign promises and hits already cash-strapped residents with higher taxes and fees to grow the government in a continuing recession, let’s have a report on what’s been done to reallocate and re-prioritize. Let’s have a report on what new federal funds have been brought in. Let’s get that 5 percent cut from the state payroll. Then we can talk about taxes.
If we aren’t going to hold candidates to their campaign promises after they’re elected, we may as well spare ourselves the long and expensive campaigns and choose leaders based on the ethnic appeal of their spouses.