A Grass Roots Look At Spending
Wednesday - May 05, 2010
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan impaneled a team of 161 senior business executives and a couple of thousand private sector volunteers to conduct a thorough review of federal government expenditures. This “President’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control” came to be known as the Grace Commission after the panel’s chairman, the late J. Peter Grace. The panel ultimately made 2,478 recommendations to cut “waste, mismanagement and inefficiency” in Washington, totaling a three-year savings of $424.4 billion. In 1984, Grace teamed up with columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jack Anderson to form Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) to implement the commission’s recommendations and to identify new ones on an ongoing basis. Since then, CAGW’s 1 million members and supporters have helped save U.S. taxpayers $1 trillion.
Fortunately for Hawaii, we have Grass Root Institute of Hawaii, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute “dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, the free market and limited and accountable government.” The institute seeks to “educate and inform Hawaii’s policymakers, news media and the general public.”
Just as CAGW publishes a newsletter, The Government Waste Watch, GRIH publishes its annual Hawaii Pork Report. This is the one book Hawaii’s government does not want you to read!
A major part of last year’s report focused on our corpulent Department of Education and was augmented by GRIH’s first-ever DOE “Trim The Fat” contest. With many DOE employees participating, more than 100 ideas for cost cutting without impacting the quality of education were submitted. Proposals for hundreds of millions in potential savings went to the Board of Education, the governor and Legislature, but apparently all were ignored, “resulting in Furlough Fridays instead.”
The 2010 Hawaii Pork Report is organized into eight categories. Following are a few excerpts from each category:
EDUCATION: Discusses ongoing debate over lagging student achievement, despite massive increases in spending. Pinpoints areas for potential savings in DOE bureaucracy, i.e. excessive clerical and secretarial costs, excessive substitute security and janitorial costs. Excessive cost of lucrative contracts for services never received and wasted money on unqualified contractors.
TRANSPORTATION: The report cites the city’s $5.3 billion train project “which has fallen significantly behind schedule while costs have skyrocketed” and the required EIS remains unfinished. The governor has ordered an independent analysis of the city’s tax forecasts, which are the foundation of the project’s financial plan, and points out the project will cost each Hawaii taxpayer $5,875 in additional taxes. And there’s the 46 percent cost overrun on the rehab of the Halawa Stream bridge near the Arizona Memorial.
PARKS & RECREATION: The report questions expenses for long-term portable toilets instead of using that money to repair existing permanent restrooms. Time and cost overruns - up to 17 percent - on the Banzai Rock Skate Board Park, and mismanagement of Honolulu Zoo repairs and upgrades.
WAGES & BENEFITS: “State government employees enjoy generous salaries and benefits” and unprecedented job security, “considering it is virtually impossible to get fired from a government job.” The Hawaii Employees Retirement System is funded to only 68.8 percent with a total liability of $16.6 billion.
STATE GOVERNMENT: The Hawaii Army National Guard pays OfficeMax absolute top dollar - $939.51 - for each of 29 computer desks. Even at $72,000 per year to clean the “reflecting pool,” the state Capitol building remains “an island being invaded by pollution and disrepair.”
CITY AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT: “The state awarded $39,300 to an engineering firm to relocate a single fire hydrant on Pier 34. According to FireHydrant.org, it routinely costs $1,500 to $5,000 to perform such a change.” Big Island taxpayers settled a lawsuit for $99,500 to pay for Mayor Harry Kim’s auto accident in a county truck.
GLOBAL ECONOMY: “Chinese Technology Park deal ends in costly failure” i.e. $112,191 loss. A 2009 state audit report noted a $163,463.49 contract awarded to the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council was paid in full, although “certain contract functions were never performed.”
FISCAL NOTES: “GRIH research has revealed that Hawaii has the only state legislature in the country that does not use fiscal notes at all. Hawaii legislators routinely vote without knowing the current or future costs of the bills” on which they are voting.
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