Senator Sam Slom and Representative Gene Ward introduce the Hawaii Senate and House Minority's launch of the Hawaii Open Budget Initiative website, which allows anyone to interact with the state budget figures.
Today, Senator Sam Slom and Representative Gene Ward held a joint press conference to launch the Hawaii Open Budget Initiative, a nonpartisan effort to make the state budgeting process accessible to the public by putting state budget facts and figures online, in real time, on the Hawaii Open Budget Initiative website: http://hawaiiopenbudget.com.
Senator Sam Slom says, "State departments and agencies are required to disclose information, but they usually publish information in static format, like in a PDF. With the Hawaii Open Budget site, people will for the first time be able to work with the numbers to create their own version of the budget and envision their ideal state economy."
Representative Gene Ward says, "Hawaii's government holds its budget like a poker player holds his cards...close to his chest and turns a card over only when he has to. With this budget website, all bets are off the table and the people of Hawaii win."
Hawaii lawmakers are taking this step toward fiscal transparency just in time for Sunshine Week, which is "an annual celebration of access to public information" slated for March 15-21, 2015.
Among the Hawaii Open Budget's main objectives is to educate the public about the state budget process by making the information readily available in a dynamic format and encouraging interaction with the numbers. Lawmakers are confident the site will allow people to gain insight into the decisions they have to make, and see the consequences behind decisions to increase taxes, cut spending, propose a tax credit or grant a tax exemption. There is even a "Balance the Budget" interactive tool where people can choose which proposed laws they want to enact to balance the state budget.
To learn more, visit the Hawaii Open Budget Initiative website or connect through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn by searching for Hawaii Open Budget Initiative or using the links provided on the webpage at http://hawaiiopenbudget.com. There is also a demonstration video on how to navigate the site and use the various tools, which can be accessed at http://hawaiiopenbudget.com.
Download the news release.
On January 21, the legislature opened its 2015 session and Senator Sam Slom delivered the following speech on behalf of the Senate Minority.
Senator Sam Slom says, "If we make bad assumptions now, they will have long term negative effects on our state."
Today, the Senate Minority Office published a report questioning the sustainability of the state's General Fund, and considered the following four key factors affecting the state's financial plan:
The Auditor of the State of Hawaii recently released a report on the University of Hawaii's use of special funds. Today, Senator Sam Slom expressed his view in reaction to the report.
Senator Slom said, "Our state Constitution requires a balanced budget. That means the state should not spend more than it takes in. Unfortunately, the use of special funds has grown over recent years and it has become a habit of some members of the Legislature and Executive to use special funds to avoid the Constitutional requirement of balancing the budget. The recent Auditor's report is evidence that hundreds of millions of dollars can bypass legislative and public scrutiny and distort Hawaii's budgeting process as a result."
In the December 2014 report, the State Auditor recommended that 17 existing UH special funds, revolving funds, and trust funds be discontinued for falling short of four key legislative criteria. The four key legislative criteria include that a special fund must:
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