Categorized | Business

Budget organization honors Kawamura for achievements


Former Gov. Linda Lingle congratulates former Director of Budget and Finance Georgina Kawamura for earning this year’s top award from the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Kawamura, who served as Hawaii’s budget director during the Lingle Administration’s two terms, was recognized with the Gloria Timmer Award, the highest honor NASBO bestows upon a state budget officer.

The national award recognizes the major positive impact Kawamura had on Hawaii’s financial situation, her career of accomplishments as a government budget officer, and her contributions and active participation in NASBO activities.

Kawamura accepted the award at the recent NASBO annual meeting in Utah.

“This national award recognizes Georgina’s outstanding career as a state and county budget officer and the exemplary approach she took in bringing fiscal accountability and responsible financial management to the state budget process,” Lingle said.

Under Kawamura’s leadership, the Lingle Administration was able to confront the most severe economic crisis in Hawaii’s history and successfully closed an almost $3 billion gap in state revenues without increasing taxes.

Kawamura’s outstanding fiscal management and financial expertise enabled Lingle to take a prudent, responsible approach to balancing the budget, while preventing Hawaii from falling into the fiscally precarious situation many other states faced at the height of the economic downturn between 2008 and 2010.

When Lingle first took office in December 2002, her Administration was tasked with the challenge of addressing a $215 million deficit.

Working closely with Kawamura and her team at the Department of Budget of Finance, the Lingle Administration successfully turned that deficit into a $574 million positive balance in just three years.

Kawamura was also instrumental in strengthening and maintaining the state’s bond ratings despite the national and global economic recession.

Hawaii received a rating of “AA” from both Standard and Poor’s Rating Service and Fitch Ratings, and a “Aa2” from Moody’s Investor Service in 2009 – the highest ratings in the state’s history – which enabled the state to attract new capital to fund state capital improvement projects.

To increase transparency in the budgeting process and ensure the people of Hawaii have a clear picture of how their tax dollars are spent, Kawamura initiated the “Budget in Brief,” an easy-to-understand version of the executive budget and financial plan that used everyday language to explain each department’s budget, as well as the state’s financial outlook.

Kawamura and her team also answered online questions from the public as part of an effort to ensure residents had a better understanding of the budget and to engage the public in the budgeting process.

As budget director, Kawamura led an effort to increase public outreach efforts to return unclaimed property to their rightful owners or heirs. Her team worked to raise awareness about the state’s Unclaimed Property program by publishing notices in newspapers statewide and assisting residents with free database searches at various locations and community events to determine if unclaimed funds were due to them.

As a result of Kawamura’s commitment to enhance communications about the program, during the eight fiscal years of the Lingle Administration, the Unclaimed Property program paid more than 50,000 claims totaling more than $35 million to their rightful owners.

Prior to being named state budget director by Lingle in December 2002, Kawamura served for more than 11 years as budget director for Maui County. She is a graduate of Maui Community College and Kamehameha Schools.

Kawamura served for several years on NASBO’s Executive Committee as chair of the Health, Human Services and Justice Committee, Western Regional director. She also hosted the 2008 NASBO Annual Meeting in Honolulu.

Lingle is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the 2012 election. Building on her experience as a five-term council member on Maui, two-term mayor of Maui and eight years as governor, Lingle will bring her strong record of fiscal accountability and executive experience in economic development, stimulating job creation, international relations, clean energy and visitor industry issues to Washington.

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