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Reason and Accountability in Government

June 25, 2009
Commentary contributed by Al Rabold · Kula

Gov. Linda Lingle has ordered 14,500 state workers to accept a 14 percent reduction in income via unpaid time off to help balance the budget. She is effectively asking 14,500 largely underpaid employees to underwrite a debt that should be shared by all 626,000 employed persons throughout the state! Then she has the unmitigated nerve to imply that it’s all right because she and her staff are going to take the same 14 percent cut in compensation—after accepting a 36 percent pay increase themselves! That raise was applicable not only to her but to all state legislators, judges, department heads, et al, who have gleefully put it in their pockets!

Shouldn’t this debt, which belongs to all of us, be more fairly paid by all of us? Unfortunately, our legislators, ever protective of re-election, lack the courage to do what is right by temporarily raising taxes for everybody. Instead they punish another minority group by forcing them to bear the brunt of their lack of fiscal responsibility.

Furthermore, shouldn’t our government be looking seriously at ways to reduce government expenditures without denying citizens their services?

Twenty-nine states have adopted the Japanese analysis technique known as Keizen, in which departmental workers plot actual workflow to define logjams, redundancies and other inefficiencies, then implement ways to perform with greater efficiency and reduced cost! At least one state has realized cost reductions of 30 percent! The people of Hawai‘i should demand this of both state and county governments!

Finally, isn’t it time our government learn to perform a little old-fashioned value—engineering analysis—to existing programs? A case-in-point is public elementary-secondary education. Hawai‘i is currently ranked 16th in the country in per-student expenditures, but way down in 47th place with respect to quality of education! It doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to see that something is wrong. And no, it’s highly doubtful that that kind of disparity can be explained away by high teacher salaries or the cost of living in Hawai‘i. Why then?

Isn’t it time that we, the citizens of Hawai‘i, start demanding reason and accountability from our government? If not now, when facing a financial disaster, when?



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