Nice Talk, Guv, But We Need Details

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - February 02, 2011

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has a tough job in front of him. The state of Hawaii is still suffering the impact of a global economic contraction that has been going on for years. One look at Greece, Portugal, Ireland and other countries tells us our collective challenges are far from over.

Does the governor of Hawaii hold any sway in affecting world financial situations? Not really. But he is responsible for navigating our state through inclement economic weather with the least amount of negative impact to our citizens.

His recent State of the State address was an inspirational message. If there is one thing the governor is blessed with, it’s the ability to capture the attention of his audience and keep it. He soars with great rhetorical flourish, intersperses personal vignettes, gesticulates as if he is filled with fire and brimstone and closes with an ecumenical message with which virtually nobody can disagree. In this case, to paraphrase, “We’re all in this together.”


I think we can agree the messenger is tremendous, but what about the message? Time and space do not allow a word-for-word repetition of the governor’s speech. As a matter of fact, when it comes to details, the content was a little light. But the governor did give an indication of where he was heading.

That said, it is not unusual for governors to make bold policy statements without specifics - remember Gov. Lingle’s announcement regarding the state’s purchase of Turtle Bay? But Abercrombie has a litany of proposals that sound profound, but leave most scratching their heads.

Examples: Abercrombie is calling for “New Day Work Projects.” Sounds just like “New Deal Work Projects.” OK, so there are close to $2 billion worth of state projects under way. Doesn’t it make sense to take care of what’s on the books before creating more spending projects? Oh, and by the by, what would those new projects be?

The governor is not shy. But calling for the taxing of pensions? Exactly which retirees would be affected? Because of the inherent unfairness of a progressive tax structure, $1 could determine who pays more or who pays less. It also means that the state is determining who receives too much, which leads to their taxation. There are thousands of seniors who will be affected. Which ones are you willing to take more money from?


It’s so easy to target the “sins” of the people. We are used to the “holier than thou” attitudes of those who decry the terrible consequences of using a legal product yet are first in line to raise taxes to take as much money as possible. Now the governor has soda in his sights. His proposal is more of the same old masquerade of supposedly caring for the welfare of the general public, yet coercing cash from those who choose to use. What’s so bold about that?

But Abercrombie is exactly as he was during the election. It’s not like there should be any surprises.

With a burgeoning biennial fiscal deficit approaching $850 million, what we really need are detailed specifics of how this gap will be closed instead of vague theoretical statements.

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