When Gov. Linda Lingle unveiled her plan to balance the state's budget her voice was hoarse and she appeared resigned and weary. There is nothing about the state's - or country's - economic prospects that warrants enthusiasm.
According to the state constitution, the state budget must be balanced. Budgets are based on economic forecasts. The latest one predicts revenues will be $650 million less than expenditures through mid 2011. Another forecast is due out next week. No one expects the situation to improve.
Lingle anticipates bridging $320 million of the gap with federal stimulus funds. The next biggest chunk of money will require political courage on the part of legislators. The governor proposes cutting state employee health and life insurance benefits to the tune of $105 million.
She doesn't expect an outcry over cutting worker benefits since "they have better benefits than the private sector." The government unions should check with their private-sector counterparts. They'll learn - if they don't know already - that private-sector union workers are reluctantly accepting cuts in benefits, layoffs and buyouts because it's either that or see their employers go under and lose everything.
Lingle's budget calls for moving $14 million out of the tobacco lawsuit settlement fund along with $33 million in tobacco tax revenues into the general fund. Let the agencies and programs relying on those funds stand on their own along with the other nonprofit service agencies facing radical cuts in their government grants.
The governor's plan wisely avoids tax and fee hikes, layoffs or furloughs for state employees. When the economy is depressed, taking money out of circulation only brings more pressure to bear.
Now it's up to the Legislature. Senators and representatives have asked everyone to tell them what they can cut. They should ask themselves the same question. With the economy being what it is in this, the Chinese Year of the Ox, everyone's ox is being gored.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.