Thursday, July 12, 2007
Governor to pedestrians: Drop Dead
It's one thing to threaten a veto in order to encourage the Legislature to compromise on an area of disagreement--in this case, whether the badly needed money to correct dangerous intersections should come out of the highway fund (as the Legislature decided) or out of the general fund (as the governor would prefer).
Lingle said earlier today [Tuesday] that she would not release the pedestrian safety money even if her veto was overriden because it would come out of the state highway fund instead of the general fund. (Legislature overrides 11 of 27 vetoes, Advertiser, July 10, 2007)
Ok, she tried. But she failed. The Legislature has the right to set priorities for use of highway fund money in statewide projects, and it did so.
The Legislature recognized that the important thing is to get those fixes in as soon as possible, before more people are killed or injured. Read on:
The Republican governor asked lawmakers to amend the bill to change its funding source but state House and Senate Democratic leaders refused, describing it as a proper use of the highway fund.
The policy dispute puts the pedestrian safety money in limbo and baffled advocates for the elderly, who wanted the money after several pedestrian fatalities this year. ($3 million for Hawaii pedestrians in limbo, Advertiser, July 11, 2007)
So "Governor to pedestrians: Drop Dead" is her final position. The Legislature came away from this clean as a whistle. The vote to override her veto included Republicans who crossed over and deserted her unreasonable stand.
And yes, advocates for the elderly may have been baffled yesterday, but no longer. In the end, the money will be released and the intersections fixed. It's not as important where the money comes from as that it be spent. In fact, the $1.5 million per year is only the beginning of what Hawaii, both state and counties, will have to invest in order to overcome years of deadly neglect that have earned Hawaii top position in elderly pedestrian deaths among the 50 states.
These deaths and injuries are largely avoidable, but we have to begin to work on the causes.
The only question is when the governor will get out of the way and let the repairs be made.
If she continues to withhold funds, every time a pedestrian is killed in an intersection we will remind her who is responsible (hint: it's not the Legislature and not the advocates).
We can argue that future deaths and injuries are now the responsibility of Linda Lingle, because for the sake of a political squabble she refuses to let a small sum be spent to correct the deficiencies.