Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Senator Donna Kim: This is not funny

by Larry Geller

The state Senate’s money committee voted this morning to cut executive, judicial and legislative pay by 5 percent and to freeze future pay raises. [Star-Bulletin, Senate panel votes to cut pay, 4/8/2009]

The article reveals that lawmakers (who just got a 36% raise) will find their pay slashed from $48,708 to $46,272.

Ouch. That must hurt. Slashed! By 5%!

But get this:

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, Ways and Means chairwoman, said the gesture was mostly symbolic and would save about $4 million, but showed that the lawmakers understood that the state’s weakened economy means everyone must make sacrifices.

No Smiley That statement really boggles the mind.

Sen. Kim, 20% or more would be a sacrifice. Pick your favorite number, but it’s not 5%.

I don’t begrudge people a fair wage, and the media here seem to have a habit of stigmatizing anyone who makes a salary comparable to the going rate on the Mainland. I don’t understand that, but, Sen. Kim, you’re making the Ways and Means Committee look like it is truly clueless of the sacrifices people have already made in Hawaii.

And it’s only going to get worse.

You can do something real or not, but don’t call 5% a sacrifice. I have no tears for you.

We’re in trouble, we don’t need anything “mostly symbolic.”

But I do have an idea for the legislature. You’ve put me in the mood, Sen. Kim. I feel like that smiley face looks. 

I’m going to talk about real sacrifices, not yours, but of the most vulnerable people in our state. Those who have been made to sacrifice for no good reason. They are hurting because the governor has withheld badly needed funds appropriated by the legislature.

So... How about we withhold governor Lingle’s pay, not 5%, but completely?

She has held back something like $1 million in funds for senior care and meals. She won’t implement laws passed by the legislature to save people money on expensive prescription drugs.

Here’s a chance for the legislature to really make a statement. Return the favor Lingle has dealt so many people by showing her what it feels like when Meals on Wheels doesn’t come knocking on the door because she withheld their money.

Now, that would be a sacrifice I could go with. And of course, the money could be put to good use paying for either kupuna care or mental health services or to reverse other sacrifices she has imposed on us even when times were not lean.

I know you won’t do that. And I’m a compassionate being (as opposed to some governors). But please go back into your committee room and come out with something meaningful to the people of Hawaii, something that will make a real, not symbolic, difference.


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