Honolulu’s mayor, City Council battle budget

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell

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It’s a fight to the finish as Honolulu’s mayor and City Council battle over the budget.

The deadline is quickly approaching and both sides are still butting heads over where the money should be spent.

“But there are going to be times when we are going to disagree,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

Now would be one of those times, as Caldwell and councilmembers try to find common ground on his first budget as Honolulu mayor.

“It’s not going to be something personal, it’s going to be about policy,” Caldwell said.

On Wednesday, the mayor held a news conference to talk about the council’s most recent budget draft.

One of his biggest complaints, the budget for grants in aid, which help non-profit groups. The mayor says the council is proposing nearly $14 million. Last fiscal year, it was over $1 million.

Mayor Caldwell said he wanted to raise the fuel tax to fix roads and restore bus routes.

“Instead, they added about the same amount I was trying to raise on these special interest grants, throwing the budget further out of whack,” he said.

Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, chair of the budget committee, says the mayor’s budget proposal shouldn’t have added in money raised that hadn’t been approved.

“And we didn’t raise it the year before when Carlisle asked to raise it one percent, why would we raise it five percent? And yet they added that money to the budget to balance it?” Councilmember Kobayashi asked.

The mayor also says in order to balance the budget, the council is taking $10 million out of retiree health benefits and more than $6 million out of the city’s rainy day fund.

Kobayashi says they’re sending back a balanced budget, without increasing taxes or fees and the extra money for grants, helps many people in need.

Although the mayor won’t comment on a possible veto, Kobayashi did.

“If he vetoes, I think we have the votes to override,” Councilmember Kobayashi said.

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