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Opening day of the 2003 Hawaii Legislative session, Democrat leaders in the House and Senate, taking a page from Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s 2002 campaign for governor, called for “change” and “a new beginning.”

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki in his speech claimed Democrats running for office in 2002 had walked hundreds of miles and talked to thousands of constituents who said they wanted “change.”

“We get it,” Saiki adamantly repeated as he called for reform in campaign spending laws, a more honest government and a stronger public school system.

House Speaker Calvin Say also called for “change,” and said the days of asking “what’s in it for me” are over. He presented the House’s 15 Republican and 36 Democrat members with a gift — a bamboo shoot — symbolizing “what they could accomplish together.”

“The bamboo plant is an ancient Chinese symbol of strength and good fortune. The empty center of the stem represents a virtuous person with an open mind. The bamboo thrives because it is flexible. I hope we can be like this too — flexible, but strong,” Say said. Flexible, strong, open-minded, he said.

Across the Capitol in the Senate, Democrat Senate Pres. Robert Bunda talked of building a “stronger, more prosperous community.”

“We must be bold, we shouldn’t be afraid to offer proposals that may seem too daring or far-reaching. We mustn’t hesitate to share ideas, to suggest the seemingly impossible, to resurrect discarded notions, or to seek new ways of doing what we’ve always done. I would argue that it’s our obligation as legislators to do so, and I know the Senate, with the decisive leadership of our committee chairs, will be at the forefront of these efforts,” Bunda said. He stunned his audience and fellow Democrats when he proposed resurrecting the dead and discredited fixed rail transit proposal.

They each pledged to find a way to work together with Lingle, the first Republican governor in 40 years and the first-ever woman in that office.

So far this session, these words from the state’s Democrat lawmakers have echoed hollowly throughout the state Capitol.

Yesterday, during the second crossover or exchange of bills from one House to the other, they proved they did not mean a word they said Jan. 15, 2003, opening day of the session, possibly with the exception of the hostile anti-Bush, anti-Republican remarks Say made near the end of his speech, when he used the same old tired argument, pointing to the Republicans as only helping the “very rich.” This followed Say’s statement that he was not concerned Lingle was a Republican.

In fact, the majority of Democrats through their votes, floor speeches and endorsement of bills, proved once again they have no new ideas or lack the courage to act on them, and that they do not truly want to help the economy or the business community, reform education or close campaign finance legal loopholes that allow rampant and wide-spread abuse by politicians wanting contributions and businesses seeking government permits and contracts.

They proved they have no understanding of the free-market, how business works, how prosperity is created, how people are raised out of poverty instead of becoming more reliant on government subsidies, and how to fix the economy they say they so desperately want to improve.

Bunda so much as admitted this when almost bewildered he said in his speech that “we are facing the same fiscal realities that have dogged us for so long.”

”Improving The Economy”

Rather than helping to free business people, the creators of wealth, of burdensome regulations, taxes and mandates — the triangle that strangles business and gives Hawaii the worst-in-the-nation business climate ratings — Democrat legislators predictably are making the situation much, much worse by proposing to substantially raise taxes and attempting to add mandates and regulations.

In the Senate, Democrats, with a few exceptions, voted to raise Hawaii’s taxes by $430 million through three proposals, including a 12.5 percent increase in the general excise tax ($180 million); a 7-year plan that imposes a monthly tax on anyone with business interests, land ownership or residency in Hawaii to fund a socialist long-term care government fund ($100 million +); and to give the Honolulu City & County the right to tax anyone purchasing goods on Oahu an additional 1 percent sales tax in addition to the 4.5 percent general excise tax they increased ($120 million).

Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kauai, who touts the fact that he is a small business owner with 14 employees, praised the general excise tax increase, which will result in $180 million more in tax revenues, $120 million Democrat senators promise will be used to fund the education system. Hooser said the money is needed to fund the education system and anyone not supporting the increase is turning their back on the children of Hawaii.

“Some of us are saying education is not a priority,” he said while glaring at the Republican minority next to him who voted against the general excise tax increase. “Yes it will raise the cost of living, but businesses will not flee our shores and the economy will improve just like it always does. I wish we were not raising taxes, but the alternatives are worse.”

Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican representing the East Oahu district, who also is president of the small business advocacy organization, Small Business Hawaii, says Hooser is dead wrong. Businesses have fled the shores and the economy has not improved for more than a decade, Slom says.

“For three straight years we led the nation in bankruptcies, and not a day goes by that we don’t read or hear about a benchmark family business being forced to shut down because of the high cost of taxes, mandates, regulations or a combination of all three,” Slom says.

And not only have the businesses fled, other business owners and investors considering starting a business in Hawaii won’t come to the state because the business climate is so bad and the education system is so poorly managed, something Slom says will not be fixed with more money, rather decentralization, more power to parents and teachers and better management.

“The very people that will be hurt by this tax increase will be the children, something Sen. Hooser certainly does not understand,” Slom says.

Hooser claimed ignorantly on the Senate floor that the general excise tax increase will add just 2 cents to every plate lunch and arrogantly claimed the increase will have little impact on the people of Hawaii, except the rich people who he says are buying Lexus cars and who are complaining most about the $250 he estimates will be attached to the purchase of such a luxury automobile.

Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, also says Hooser is dead wrong in his assessment of the impact of the tax increase. The poor and the economy will be hurt by this general excise tax increase, and the impact of the tax will be much higher than just 2 cents on a plate lunch, Kalapa says.

Kalapa says Hooser is taking a micro rather than macro view of the economy — seeing just the money the government will get, rather than the $180 million that will be sucked out of the economy.

He says the tax will hurt the poor the most. “Any transaction tax is a regressive tax and hurts the poor the most because they spend almost 100 percent of their budget on food and rent, while for the

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