Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will allow the city’s 2015 fiscal year budget to take effect in July without his signature, a symbolic gesture meant to underscore his position that the City Council doesn’t have authority over the budget of the quasi-city agency overseeing the $5.2 billion Honolulu rail project. 

Caldwell returned six bills unsigned to the City Council on Monday, three of which relate to the budget for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. Three others are the city’s legislative, operating and capital budgets.

Caldwell said during a press conference earlier this month that he was leaning toward signing the city’s operating and capital budgets this year, which he rejected last year, while making clear that he would likely not sign the separate HART budget bills.

“I believe under the charter amendment setting up HART, HART was designated the entity to build rail and it was to take the politics out of the system,” he said.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell speaks at press conference in response to the City Council's approval vote on the city budget. June 4, 2014

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell speaking to the press on June 4, 2014

Bentley/Civil Beat

However, he decided not to sign the city’s legislative, operating and capital budget bills as well because of clauses included in the measures related to HART, according to a press release issued by the mayor’s office on Monday.

The clauses relate to the City Council’s authority over HART’s budget.

The move by Caldwell signifies a long-standing disagreement between the mayor’s office and City Council over whether the council has authority over HART’s budget. Former Mayor Peter Carlisle also declined to sign bills related to the HART budget.

Council Chair Ann Kobayashi said that the City Council has always gone over the HART budget since the agency was established.

HART “always submits their budget, they come to our hearings, they don’t have a problem with it,” Kobayashi told Civil Beat. “They have been transparent with us when asked questions or when asked for more information, they give it to us.”

She said it was odd for the mayor to take the position that the City Council doesn’t have authority over HART’s budget when HART is asking the City Council to float bonds as bridge financing for the rail project.

“If they mayor thinks we don’t have any authority, does that mean that he thinks we shouldn’t issue city bonds?” she said.

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