Guv’s campaign promises upended by reality

When Gov. Neil Abercrombie was pressed during last year’s campaign by opponents Mufi Hannemann and James “Duke” Aiona on how he was going pay for his proposals, he’d typically answer, “Why do you it assume it will cost more?”

He said he’d cover the state deficit and pay for new programs by re-prioritizing, reallocating and tapping federal funds that he claimed the state wasn’t taking advantage of.

Abercrombie derided Aiona’s proposal for an audit of the Department of Education and Hannemann’s call for a comprehensive audit of state finances, saying he was ready to hit the ground running and didn’t need any audit to tell him the score.

Well, now that he’s finally coughed up a budget four months into his administration, it seems that his opponents were correct that his plans are going to cost more; he wants to spend several hundred million dollars more than proposed by the previous administration.

Abercrombie is relying mainly on tax increases of various kinds to finance his plans, with relatively little sign of re-prioritizing and reallocating. There have been few announcements of new federal funds coming Hawai‘i’s way.

He not only made big campaign promises, but was especially cocky in purporting to know it all as to where we stood and what needed to be done.

If truth in advertising has any meaning anymore in political campaigning, the governor owes us a better accounting of how his proposals stack up against what he promised.

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14 Comments on “Guv’s campaign promises upended by reality”

  1. zzzzzing Says:

    “An empty cart makes the most noise.”

    Is there a ‘recall’ button we can push? I didn’t vote for him, but I hear lots of people who did would like to find that button…

  2. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Our Gov must have access to that magic formula which allows politicians to increase spending, diminish revenue and reduce debt, all at the same time.

    Not much hope and definitely no spare change in the budget. It’s floating on some pretty big assumptions which look less likely to come true.

    Oh well, there’s always the GET and the rail fund. In other words, he still has options before facing downgrades to Hawaii’s bond ratings, even higher costs of debt and the deep kimchee we all know is coming.

    Well now,that was cheery,wasn’t it?

  3. Jim Loomis Says:

    Everyone demands that Neil do something about the deficit and present a balanced budget, but nobody wants to lose any of their benefits or pay more taxes, even if they can afford it. And when he asks us to share a little bit of the load, some of us immediately look for the recall button. What a spoiled bunch of whiners we have become.

  4. Kolea Says:

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I think you go a bit too far.

    During the campaign, I was not convinced by Abercrombie’s pronouncements about the economy. I thought we were in a worse financial state than he was letting on. I do believe the Lingle administration was not pursuing available federal funds. I remember being shocked when I would hear about opportunities to receive federal matching funds for GOOD programs that the Governor would not apply for because they required a relatively small co-payment from the state. So I figured Neil’s people would be better at that.

    That talking point made sense when Neil began his campaign. But as Election Day approached, it started becoming obvious that the Republicans were likely to take control of the House, seriously threatening the prospects. But by that time, it was hard to change the theme and undercut his own campaign (and possibly that of Hanabusa against Djou) by saying he probably would NOT be able to get much federal money after all.

    And, to be fair, even at that point, it appeared that Inouye’s position as Chair of Senate Appropriations would provide a powerful connection.

    I was also put off by Neil’s pledge to not support a GET increase. At times, he even was so sloppy in his Official Optimism that he said we could accomplish everything with NO tax increases.

    Whatever concerns I had in this regard, I was confident Abercrombie would be more likely to wring concessions from the state unions than an out and out opponent of unions like Aiona. And Neil does have a much better grasp of local government at all levels than Aiona.

    What was Aiona’s economic program? Dave, you let him off a bit too lightly by saying he wanted to audit the entire government to find places to save money. When Lingle ran her first successful campaign for Governor, she spoke very highly of the State Auditor, Marion Higa, promising to use her to root out waste, fraud abuse and inefficiency in government. But as her administration went on, she became more and more resentful of Higa’s findings and blocked Higa’s work, personally disparaging her.

    So for Aiona to again start singing the praises of the auditor failed to convince anyone. Instead of offering his own “plan,” Aiona evaded the issue by saying, in essence, he couldn’t offer a plan until after an audit was completed.

    So neither party’s candidate offered a very useful “plan” for dealing with the budget crisis.

    While Neil may have been “winging it” with his reassurances about his ability to fix the budget, I truly believe he was not aware of how deep the budget deficit was until after he assumed office. I have talked to some of his top people and can report back how shocked they were once they started touring state agencies to assess the situation.

    Howeveer we got here, I am hoping Abercrombie will heed Amy Agbayani’s advice and return to the “listening” mode her used during the campaign. He neds to listen to the broader community. But he also has to ensure there is a climate within state agencies that good ideas will be heard and considered.

    The new administration has made several serious missteps. His tax proposals were very poorly presented and I remain unconvinced they reflect his admirable goal of “shared sacrifice.” I believe Hawaii’s people ARE willing to support an agenda of “shared sacrifice,” and I am most definitely including public sector employees when I say this. But Neil has to do a better job in both crafting and presenting policies which we can be capable of supporting.

    It is a much meaner political environment than when Lingle first came into office. The choices facing this administration are much more dire, potentially divisive than those Lingle faced early on. But Lingle also benefited from a relatively long honeymoon period before the knives were drawn. Many Republican/Tea Party activists today see little reason to be reasonable and constructive when yelling and demonizing Democrats is a much easier and exciting option.

    And on the other side, Neil –like Obama –risks losing support in the Democratic base if he does not convince us of the merits of his proposals and at least consider our views before pushing ahead.

    My sense is the administration is so busy scrambling to try to get through this legislative session that they are deferring a lot of their longterm, restructuring work until after the session ends. In some ways, that is understandable. But in other ways, it will be too late.

    He tried to “hit the ground running,” but having only one month before the start of session to recruit appointees, examine the budget, assess the needs of state agencies, trying to bring stakeholders together to plan restructuring– that is an unrealistic expectation.

  5. David Shapiro Says:

    It’s way too early for recall buttons.

  6. Michael Says:

    If there was an audit when lingle was governor, a lot of what was hidden would have been made public then and not now.

    Seems republicans left the door open for a democrat Governor to fail. Seems they set a trap so that people will see that it was better with a republican party than a democratic one. It is no different before compared to now. Same situation, just different leaders.

    I favor what our Governor is doing with unions.
    He shows he is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds him. Governor Abercrombie is a replacement Governor and not worrying about his re-election.
    He is doing what he can and while he can. unions are not a business without union members. union reps don’t get a pay raise unless union dues go up. unions do not pay Health Insurance or Unemployement.
    Our Governor is a politician and not a Business person. Again I say Hawaii should be run by an Accountant or one with a Business Major.

  7. Anticoqui Says:

    I don’t know if this rant fits this site but…. As faras ‘finding’ patches to the Budget, is there an overall audit by Marion Higa that shows the deficiencies in Government operations? Has there been a serious call for ‘Welfare System reform/regulation’? Has ‘Unemployment benefits’ been scrutinized for abuse/liberal usage? there could be some savings in those two places. A newspaper article mentioned a visitor talking to squatter(s) who said they don’t need to work with their welfare checks coming and they ‘living off the land’ with supplies ferried into where they live by friends. Food stamps/checks from the State going to free-loaders, wow. Unempoyment help may be going to some who are willing to work ONLY if the pay is right/high enough; not, working to get off the unempolyed line. Also, may how State projects like renovation/repair of schools are done need to be altered. Why stick to D.A.G.S. employees or Facilities maintainance workers only; if there are craftsmen out there who can do the repair/upkeep of schools let’s get them working for less than union scale but above minimum wages. At least get some monies flowing into the economy by these workers being paid and spending some of their wages. I guess/hope that would be a shift from unemployment checks to pay checks. Wonder now, how the events in Wisconsin might affect things in government budget here.

  8. waialuahaole Says:

    Aiona was calling for an independent, outside audit of the DOE, which would have likely turned up hundreds of millions of $$ in waste. It wouldn’t have cured the budget deficit, but it would have helped. Some people on this board misunderstood what has been carried out in the past (Higa audits) versus what Aiona was calling for (an independent audit conducted by an outside company).

    Secondly, it seems bizarre that in the face of a massive budget deficit, the governor is INCREASING spending. That defies simple common sense. If you are over budget, and you are spending more than you bring in with income, do you demand a raise from your boss? Or do you look for areas to cut spending to meet budget?

  9. David Says:

    You expected anything new from a longtime member of Hawaii’s good ole boy network?

    If you want change in Hawaii, vote NO INCUMBENTS and no more good ole boys!

  10. shaftalley Says:

    it’s up to the citizens of hawaii to quit asking for more assistance from our politicians.patronage-ism is corruption.and it’s up to our local politiciansto quit asking for federal assistance.

  11. Michael Says:


  12. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Let’s make all government services at all three levels of government optional/opt-in or out by privatizing them all: Education, fire and police protection, the military, transportation services & roadway repairs, clean water & air, medical services including autopsies and bio-medical research, garbage pick-up, __________ (fill in the blank).

    Yes, we can get rid of government and all it takes is money.

    If you don’t pay the service fees, you don’t get the services. If you cannot afford them and still be able to put food on the table and pay the rent, then go eat free meals at IHS and go live under the nearest bridge.

    And if your neighbor cannot afford to pay for private sector fire-fighting services, volunteer your hose for him to put out the blazing inferno caused by uninspected lighting fixtures – assuming, of course, that he’s purchased a monthly water supply ticket.

    If he hasn’t, then you can call your fire protection service provider to keep your house from going up in flames as well.

    Frankly, it pukes me out to read comments from people who charge that the government wastes our tax money through fraud or mismanagement. You don’t like the services our government provides, then go off the grid completely – or move to Libya or Afghanistan or Iran or some other bastion of democracy where you don’t get what you pay for.

  13. Richard Gozinya Says:

    “Frankly, it pukes me out …that the government wastes our tax money through fraud or mismanagement.”

    Fixed it for ya.

  14. shaftalley Says:

    i agree that we should privatize all services now provided by our state government.but we don’t have a genuine FREE MARKET.we don’t have real 100% capitalism.what we have is democrat/republican crony-capitalism.state and organised labor controlled monopolies.a lot of state-favored private businesses.we need a competitive economic environment.we need to safe-guard our personal and economic liberties at all times.protect our private properties and total freedom.that should be the only purpose of any gov’ make sure that we have our precious liberties.when we have economic freedom from the state,we will also be able to take better care of the truly needy people.

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