Editorials 2019-April-26

The emperor and almost everyone else have no clothes

AFTER four or so years of growth, the local economy is shrinking, again. Tourist arrivals continue to decline.

Two devastating typhoons and federally mandated workforce rules have dampened current and new business activities. Not surprisingly, the administration’s revenue projection, which was pegged early last (election) year, has missed its targets.

On Tuesday, a Department of Finance analyst reminded House members that despite the spending cuts, the FY 2019 budget is still higher than the budgets in FYs 2014, 2015 and 2016. He said there is funding shortfall mainly because government spending has increased.

But that’s what many governments all over the world throughout known human history usually do — they overspend. Unlike, say, a typical household or business entity, government, more often than not, is motivated by a different set of incentives. Hence, government overspending is not a “problem”; it is government’s usual if not perennial default mode.

When the going was still good, did any elected official or candidate for office publicly, loudly and repeatedly oppose pay hikes for rank-and-file government employees? Did anyone say no to the 25 percent and bonus payments to retirees even though they are not required by the settlement agreement? Did someone argue against the hiring of more personnel especially for public safety, public education, healthcare? Who protested the expansion of “critical public services” or the creation of new ones?

These are exceedingly popular policies. The decision to propose and implement them were made (and will continue to be made) democratically by a majority of voters through their elected officials.

Undoing them or most of them must also go through the democratic decision-making process.

So when elected officials and other politicians are done with the finger-pointing, hand-wringing and belly-aching, they may want to do something about the problems for which they say they are very concerned.

That’s right, do something

ON Tuesday, the governor’s party-mates on the House Ways and Means Committee basically called him and his finance/budget team unreliable if not delusional. (With “friends” like these…)

The lawmakers believe that the administration’s FY 2020 revenue projection is “too high.” They may be right. Thank God then that it is the Legislature that passes the budget bill and can override any gubernatorial veto.

So the government must “tighten its belt” and reduce spending? Lawmakers should try to make it happen. Slash the funding allotments of certain if not all government branches, departments, agencies, programs, services, etc. Suspend the pay-hikes for the top officials and the mayors. Impose pay-cuts on other officials. Ban most off-island travels. These are just a few of other possible cost-cutting measures that the government can implement.

They are also the financial equivalent of a circular firing squad so if their proponents believe that these and similar not-so popular (because painful) measures cannot be passed by the Legislature, then they should go directly to the people themselves through the initiative petition process.

What’s that? Many voters also work for the government or are related to those who do?