Mayor Caldwell refuses to sign budget

Mayor Kirk Caldwell
Mayor Kirk Caldwell

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He didn’t sign it, but he didn’t veto it either. After battling with councilmembers over the city budget, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell decided to return it unsigned.

Part of the battle involves a dispute KHON2 first exposed in Always Investigating report on Wednesday.

Caldwell’s first city budget as Honolulu mayor has been handed back to the city clerk, without his signature. He says he did it with taxpayers in mind.

“My budget was a bare-bones budget. It was basically what we’ve been living with from 2009 after the financial meltdown,” Mayor Caldwell said.

The mayor points to a $26 million imbalance in the more than $2 billion budget the Council approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

He says the Council dealt with the imbalance by cutting funding to fill vacant positions, which the mayor warns, could result in cuts in core services.

“Then we have to look at police recruitment classes. Maybe we don’t have 40 people moving through our class, maybe it’s less, maybe we do cut back on our city pool lifeguards,” Mayor Caldwell said.

In response, Budget Committee Chair Ann Kobayashi said, “I find it very irritating.”

It’s irritating because she says the funds are there — $70 million. That’s more money than before. But now, the Council is asking for accountability and transparency.

“Because when the money was released to each department, they would just spend it on whenever. But now we’re going to put it into a fund and we’re saying you wanted this money for vacant funded positions, that’s all it can be used for,” Kobayashi said.

But Mayor Caldwell complained there are restrictions to how the money can be spent and those restrictions could eventually affect the way the city is run.

“I’m sending a message that let’s get together, let’s figure out how we can reduce the negative impacts of this budget and I think there are ways to do it,” Mayor Caldwell said.

The mayor said some workers whose contracts are expiring this month, have been rehired, but he did not know how many.

You can look at the City & County of Honolulu budgets at this website, Fiscal Year 2014 Executive Program and Budget, and read Mayor Caldwell’s press release in response at this webpage, Mayor Caldwell returns budget bills without signature, expressing concerns; signs three other bills.

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