FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2002
Rep. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay
Chair, Agriculture Committee
Room 402, State Capitol
Rep. Lei Ahu Isa
Chair, Economic Development & Business Concerns
Room 314, State Capitol
Rep. Ken Hiraki
Proposed spending cuts to balance the State Budget could leave consumers at the mercy of unscrupulous businesses and even leave businesses victimized by other companies, according to several key House lawmakers.
At today's public hearing by the House Finance Committee, the State Department of Agriculture testified that a 5 percent spending cut would force them to eliminate the Measurement Standards program.
That elicited testimony from the U.S. Commerce Department National Institute of Standards and Technology. Henry Oppermann, director of NIST's Office of Weights and Measures, testified that the Agriculture Department's proposal is "alarming."
According to Oppermann, eliminating this part of the infrastructure of commerce would create a regulatory vaccuum where unscrupulous companies could flourish.
"I'm concerned for consumers," said Rep. Ken Hiraki, chair, Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee. "This is a function that's taken for granted, but without it, consumers would have no idea if the gas pump they're using is accurate, or if the contents of a product they buy contains what the label says."
Rep. Lei Ahu Isa, chair of Economic Development & Business Concerns Committee, said businesses could also be victimized. "Part of the responsibility of this function is to ensure fair competition in the marketplace. Without it, businesses and consumers would have no way of verifying that they're getting what they pay for."
The Agriculture Department testified that its core mission is to develop and expand agriculture and that this program was not essential to the growth of agriculture.
"This underscores perfectly why it's difficult to implement cuts as drastic as 5 percent," said Rep. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay, chair, House Agriculture Committee. "Accurate measurement standards are very important for Hawaii agriculture, too, but when you are put between a rock and a hard place, there are no easy choices."
All three lawmakers agreed that no effort should be spared to find additional sources of funding to balance the budget, because elimination of other critical functions like this could be proposed as other departments struggle to meet spending cuts.