Welcome to Capitol Watch. We’re past the halfway point at the Hawaii Legislature and hundreds of bills are still moving. Meanwhile the state’s budget shortfall is getting worse. Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.

1:57 p.m. Djou May Run for Senate if Lingle Doesn’t

Charles Djou still supports Linda Lingle should she seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate next year, but — if she does not — he just might run himself.

Djou made the remarks at a Conservative Forum for Hawaii over the weekend.

Djou says he isn’t “currently” considering running for any specific office next year, “but he hasn’t ruled out a political bid,” according to a press report.

12:01 p.m. Administration Demands 10% Expense Cuts Across All Departments

The Abercrombie administration is calling for a 10 percent cut to all state departments to help close the estimated $232 million deficit for the current year ending June 30.

The spending cuts would generate between $14 million and $15 million, according to Budget Director Kalbert Young.

Young said the cuts would come out of “the quarterly allocation of general funds set to be dispersed.”

Testifying before Senate Ways and Means this morning, Young said the administration already has received pushback from some departments that say the restrictions will cripple operations that have already been cut over the past two years.

The announcement of the cuts came after Young explained to lawmakers that raiding the state’s Hurricane Relief Fund, Rainy Day Fund and dozens of special funds would not be enough to close the shortfall.

“All three would have to be availed to eat the majority of the shortfall, and even if we took all three of those, it won’t be enough,” Young testified.

The state’s total budget deficit is estimated to be $1.3 billion through fiscal 2013.

Nanea Kalani

11:11 a.m. Senate Brainstorms on Helping Honolulu Urban Core

Senate Water, Land and Housing’s Donovan Dela Cruz and Malama Solomon are holding a meeting at 1:30 p.m. today in the Capitol Auditorium “to discuss and share ideas on the redevelopment of the Honolulu urban core and main streets of Hawaii,” according to a Senate press release. It adds:

The meeting is aimed at bringing the private sector and government together and building a common vision for job creation and stimulating our state’s economy.

Those expected to be in attendance include the administration’s Budget & Finance, the Labor Department and Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Land Use Research Foundation.

“The plan for the development of the urban core is an aggressive approach for creating jobs in the private sector and for jump starting the economy,” sais Dela Cruz in a statement. “The state needs revenue to provide services and I’m very uncomfortable with raising the GET with very little discussion on growing the economy.”

9:42 a.m. Trump Wants Abercrombie Investigated

Donald Trump told TV’s “Fox and Friends” today that Neil Abercrombie should be investigated for saying he remembers that President Obama was born in Hawaii.

The Hill newspaper reports that Trump argues Abercrombie is trying to help his fellow Democrats:

“I think this guy should be investigated,” Trump said. “He remembers when Obama was born, give me a break. He is just trying to do something for his party.”

This is the second time in two weeks that Trump, who is considering a presidential campaign for 2012, has questioned where Obama was born.

On a recent episode of ABC’s “The View” he said he wants to see Obama’s birth certificate.

8:29 a.m. Gov Talks Budget on YouTube

Neil Abercrombie can be viewed delivering what his staff says is the first of what will be regular weekly addresses.

It’s Obama-style outreach to his supporters. The governor, wearing an aloha shirt and with a serious look on his face, talks about the fiscal crisis Hawaii faces in a message timed to coincide with budget deliberations by Senate Ways and Means today.

It’s also vague, such as this call for tax increases: “If we pass a plan with sufficient new tax revenues that commits everyone to do their fair share, we can be thriving in two years, maybe less.”

An accompanying press release titled “Choosing a New Day” recaps the governor’s budget plan “that will boost our economic recovery, improve how government works, and move Hawai’i in a new economic, social, and educational direction.”

Other key points:

In these challenging times, everyone — including the public sector — is going to do more with less. Public employees are already working harder and smarter, engaging volunteers, creating new partnerships, seeking federal and other funds.

If we really want all this for Hawaii, then we are going to have to pay for them. We’re going to have to address long term liabilities we’ve ignored; we’re going to have to repair the infrastructure that we’ve let deteriorate; and we’re going to have to reorganize government and invest in its capacity to do the people’s business.

I don’t believe our public schools, housing, jobs, parks, airports, harbors, business environment, technology, or culture and arts programs are good enough as they stand today.

Senate WAM Takes Up State’s Budget

Senate Ways and Means is scheduled to consider the operating and capital improvement budget of the executive branch for the next two fiscal years.

The state, of course, faces a deficit now estimated at $1.3 billion.

Tomorrow, the Council on Revenues, at the governor’s request, will revisit its most recent forecast in light of events in Japan and the Arab world.

Case to Decide on Senate Run Soon

Ed Case sent out a note to supporters on Saturday, that — yep — he’s thinking hard about running for Dan Akaka‘s seat next year and will make a decision by mid-April.

Case says in part:

“For now, what it all adds up to is this. I know I can serve Hawaii and our country well in the U. S. Senate, know we can mount a solid statewide campaign, know we have a good chance of prevailing, and know I have the full support of Audrey and those closest to us.”

The former congressman also cited recent poll results from the Merriman River Group, which did Civil Beat’s election polls last year, that say he would do well against Mufi Hannemann and Linda Lingle in potential match-ups. No word on how he would do against others, though, like Colleen Hanabusa.

Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, picked up on Case’s note yesterday, adding, “Roll Call Politics rates this race Leans Democratic.”

Big Isle Reps Warm to Gaming

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that all state House lawmakers from the Big Island are backing making poker legal because of the state’s budget woes and worries over how the Japan crisis will makes things worse.

The lawmakers voted in favor of a bill legalizing poker tournaments in the islands. The paper reports:

“I’m not one of those persons who jumps up and down for gambling, but this is one alternative to address the state budget shortfall. … We want all our cards on the table right now, so to speak,” said Rep. Clift Tsuji.

Bill: Poi Pounding

House Consumer Protection and Commerce is scheduled to hear a bill that exempts the preparation of hand-pounded poi from some Health Department food safety requirements, imposes labeling requirements and allows for DOH some inspections.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs likes the bill, and the DOH, which had opposed it, appears satisfied that some of its concerns were incorporated into the measure.

Briefing: Sugary Drinks

Senate Health is scheduled to talk about the health effects of sugar-sweetened sodas.

The Health Department and the University of Hawaii School of Medicine are expected to make presentations.

Childhood obesity and raising taxes on sodas are issues of interest not only in Hawaii but nationally.

Resolution: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Maile Shimabukuro has introduced a resolution requesting the governor support legislation that renames Discovers’ Day in Hawaii (the second Monday in October, known to some as Columbus Day) to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Among other things, the “reso” reads:

WHEREAS, on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus did not discover America because it had been previously inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years and because after four voyages to the Caribbean, Columbus believed until his death in 1506 that he had landed in Asia; and

WHEREAS, in his famous letter to the Spanish Crown in 1493, Christopher Columbus was the first to suggest the enslavement of the native inhabitants that he had encountered; and

WHEREAS, on January 19, 1778, British captain James Cook did not discover the Hawaiian Islands, or Ka Paeaina, because the islands had been inhabited by the native Hawaiian people, or Kanaka Maoli, for hundreds of years prior to Cook’s arrival; and

WHEREAS, as a result of the crusading concept of discovery and European colonization of native lands, indigenous people perished worldwide.

You get the idea.

The reso is scheduled in Senate Judiciary and Labor, where Shimabukuro is vice chairwoman.

Catch up on previous coverage:

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