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Bodies and Positions Continue to Grow Despite Promises

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By Lowell L. Kalapa

Not only is the issue of privatization critical to controlling the size of government and therefore the taxes we are asked to pay, but spending in total has a direct impact on what we, as taxpayers, can expect in the near future.

There is no doubt in the minds of those who keep close tabs on the economy that government spending is a major reason for the economic malaise that seems to continue to dog Hawaii’s economy. No one will deny that state and local government spending accounts for more than 17% of the Gross State Product (GSP). Although that percentage seemed to decline slightly in the first two years of the current administration, it appears that with the approval of the budget for the 1997-1999 biennium, the size of government will once more return to its same bloated slice of the GSP pie that was true at the end of the last administration.

Based on preliminary reviews, the number of general fund positions will rise by more than 634 while special fund positions will grow by more than 200 new slots in the coming fiscal year. While lawmakers did not fully fund the second year of the biennium, there are additional positions slated for the latter year of the upcoming fiscal biennium. The new general fund positions alone will make a dent of more than $25 million in new spending. While lawmakers will argue that the bulk of these positions will be in the department of education, the question is what jobs were terminated in order to make up for these new positions, if any?

Beyond the position count, what is frightening is that elected officials seem to be in denial that spending needs to be reduced and the public belt needs to be tightened. It seems that lawmakers fail to comprehend the relationship between a large government monster that demands to be constantly fed and a struggling economy that does not have the discretionary capital to create the new jobs that the community needs.

So is the growth in the number of positions justifiable because the bulk of those positions will be in the department of education? No, it is totally unacceptable. What appears to be happening is that lawmakers and administration officials alike have not learned how to reallocate resources. The message is loud and clear, the taxpayer cannot afford an even larger government payroll. If new positions are deemed necessary, then other positions should be eliminated and the resources shifted from those jobs to the positions now deemed of higher priority.

The real question is: Is anyone watching what lawmakers are doing with our limited tax resources? Obviously not! If new positions are being added when there is no money, something is wrong. We are told that our elected officials are there to insure the health, safety and welfare of our community. Somehow, growing an even larger payroll that will demand more taxes does not help to reduce the tax burden that is already considered the highest in the nation.

When will elected officials realize that continued increases in state spending will drive even more taxpayers out of this state. Those who can’t make that move out of the state will be the unlucky ones, for they will have to shoulder an even heavier burden as the number of taxpayers declines while state government grows.

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