“Lingle Right Before State – State Centered”
”State of the State Offers Surprises, Controversy, New Beginning for Hawaii”
Gov. Linda Lingle addressed both Houses of the state Legislature yesterday, offering lawmakers, members of the public and the media a review of her plans beginning in 2003 through 2007. She focused primarily on measures to boost the economy, restore trust in government and strengthen public education, though she did propose solutions to Hawaii’s increasing drug problem.
In audience were state Legislators, former Governors George Ariyoshi and John Waihee, former first lady Lynn Waihee, Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, Congressman Neil Abercrombie, Congressman Ed Case and his wife Audrey, and three county mayors. Conspicuously absent was former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, the Democrat who defeated Lingle in the General Election in 1998, but is blamed by many in his party for essentially sealing Lingle’s 2002 win because of his hostile and dictator-like leadership style.
While the audience was enthusiastic giving Lingle a standing ovation at the conclusion of her speech, many of the Democrats, including Abercrombie, sat stone faced without offering applause. However, the county mayors, including Democrat Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris, clapped enthusiastically when Lingle, who is a former mayor, proposed giving 100 percent of the revenue from unadjudicated traffic fines back to the counties, something the mayors have long fought for. Senate President Bobby Bunda also was pleased that Lingle supported one of his most controversial proposals introduced during his speech on the opening day of the Legislative session to mandate the drug testing of public school students.
Some of the more surprising ideas that Lingle debuted included weakening the hold Hawaii’s public unions have over Hawaii’s public education system by exempting school principals from the public union and by giving charter schools more autonomy and double the funding they currently are authorized. Also surprising was Lingle’s backing of Bunda’s proposal to drug test children in public school. Though in her speech she called the testing “optional,” she and her lieutenant governor later explained the testing is mandatory for all students unless parents opt out their children. They say if children test positive for drugs, they will be sent to mandatory counseling, though no criminal charges will be filed against them. Saying the concept is new to Hawaii and needs to be studied further, Lingle and Aiona could not yet answer questions about how the information would be collected, where it would be stored, who would have access and who would run the testing.
Predictably Lingle continued to plug her concept of breaking up Hawaii’s single, statewide, centralized school district into seven districts, a measure that will require changing Hawaii’s state Constitution through a constitutional amendment presented to the public during the 2004 General Election.
“The people of Hawaii want better schools, with real alternatives for children who have not been able to thrive in a one-size-fits-all statewide system. They want a system that puts the interests of the children above those of anyone else, including union leaders and politicians. They want schools that prepare their children for a better life,” Lingle said.
Also surprising was Lingle’s timid proposal for tax cuts. During her campaign for governor, she pledged not to raise taxes and to fight for tax cuts on food and medical services. Yesterday, she said the state could not yet afford to take the expected $240 million tax cut, and proposed instead a more modest reporting change for low income residents, a move expected to cost the state between $20 million and $50 million. Republicans in both the House and Senate earlier announced in their legislative packages their steadfast support to remove the excise tax on the sale of food and medical.
Lingle stressed she will look for more ways to cut waste in government and is auditing every department as promised during her campaign and early days in office. She again pledged not to touch the state’s Hurricane Relief Fund, a $180 million fund former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano earmarked before he left office to balance the 2003 state budget, a move that will immediately create a $180 million shortfall. She promised to make up the state’s $3 billion unfunded liability in the state retirement system and give $10.3 million owed to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Under Lingle’s leadership, there will be more scrutiny of Hawaii’s procurement system and more openness in the bidding process. Lingle says her administration will make the government bidding system more transparent through a “reverse eBay” system earlier proposed to her by a state worker.
But the state will need to find a way to make up for the $3 billion, both because of the obvious legal obligation, and because it would be “morally wrong to push this debt onto the shoulders of the next generation,” she says.
Overall her speech did propose many groundbreaking concepts for Hawaii in the areas of education, economic reform and government accountability. However Lingle will surely face criticism from public unions, whose leaders will feel threatened by her proposals, by Democrats who will remain partisan, and by conservative Republicans who will feel Lingle’s proposals were not strong enough in the area of tax reform and economic stimulus.
To see her complete speech, go to: “State of the State – Jan. 21, 2003”
”Reforming the Election, Campaign Processes Might Finally Happen”
Gov. Linda Lingle also called for reforms in Hawaii’s election, campaign spending and procurement laws.
The Democrats and Chief Elections Officer Dwayne Yoshina have flatly refused for all the years they’ve been in power to post the election results of each poll at each poll before the results are delivered to the central counting center at the Hawaii State Capitol. The argument by Yoshina and others who support him is the media would run from poll place to poll place (including those on the neighbor islands), frantically add up the results from each one, and incorrectly add up results, leading to misinformation disseminated to the public on election days.
However, Lingle and the majority of Republicans disagree, saying it is necessary to post the results to prevent fraud in the election system. Lingle is proposing mandatory posting of election results at each precinct, and mandatory recounts in especially close elections.
She says the public also is rightly concerned about the large amounts of money contributed to political campaigns by businesses that then get millions of dollars in non-bid contracts. “Accordingly, I ask that you enact a law prohibiting political contributions by anyone benefiting from non-bid contracts,” she says. Lingle is reinforcing the position of the state Campaign Spending Commission and several lawmakers who passed legislation last year to this effect, but was vetoed by the former governor who himself benefited from this exchange of government contracts for campaign donations.
“Randy Roth and Lenny Klompus S – S 2003 Centered”
”Appointee May Face Rocky Road to Confirmation”
The majority of Gov. Linda Lingle’s appointees should be confirmed without delay or hassle by the Hawaii State Senate, largely because many of the appointees are business people from the private sector with little or no state government experience and little exposure to Hawaii politics.
However that may not be the case for at least one appointee –