Hawaii’s Legislative Leaders Debate Tax Hikes, Jobs Plan

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The 26th legislative session officially opened Wednesday with speeches from the leadership in the House and Senate.

Senate president Shan Tsutsui, D- Maui, pledged to support Governor Abercrombie’s plan to “grow a sustainable economy, invest in people, and transform government.”


The Senate majority will focus its attention on job creation by spending bond money on smaller repair and maintenance projects, he said, in public schools and at the University of Hawaii. The permitting process, notoriously slow and cumbersome in Hawaii, will be streamlined, so repairs can move quicker, Tsutsui pledged.

Senate Democrats also will push “green” energy, focus on initiatives to improve education in public schools, and transform the way the state operates by upgrading its technology.

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head, said the minority will focus on “rewarding individual risk and accomplishment, encouraging lower taxes on families and small businesses, promoting transparency in government, and advocating for additional economic options for all of our residents.”

The minority will “oppose bad programs, and bad bills, bring attention to irresponsible spending, and offer fresh ideas and new solutions.”

Hawaii and the nation have reached a political, economic and cultural “tipping point,” Slom said, adding “never before in history have our decisions been as critical as they are now.”

Government has to get its spending under control, Slom said, adding expenses must be cut back,  – just as individuals, families, and small business have been doing for years.”

Will there be more tax hikes this year?

Gov. Neil Abercrombie originally said his budget did not rely on tax increases, although he is not philosophically opposed to them. This after lawmakers increased taxes by nearly $600 million in 2011 to balance the state budget.

Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, D-Waikiki, said the Senators don’t want to raise taxes, but also won’t pledge they won’t. Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican in the Senate, opposes any new taxes or tax increases.

House Speaker Calvin Say agrees this is not the time for tax increases, because Hawaii’s the economic recovery is still fragile.

The House majority party, as with their peers in the House, also support development of alternative energy sources. Say also is pushing for expansion of internet broadband resources, universal and affordable health care and elimination of billion-dollar debts accruing in the funds that pay for government worker pensions and health care.

House Minority Leader Rep. Gene Ward, who has traditionally opposed tax hikes, will unveil more about his party’s “four-point recovery of confidence” plan in a Friday press conference.

Ward said his plan would “create jobs, put a check on spending, insure more overall government accountability and transparency and protect our community from organized cyber crime.”