Worst Legislative Session Ever?

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - May 12, 2010

Gov. Linda Lingle has termed this past legislative session to be the worst she has ever seen. The subjectivity of her statement is understandable since the Democrat majority succeeded in taking care of its own at the expense of all.

It would be easy to simply parrot what we already know. Our state is well more than $1 billion upside down - again. Although below the national rate, unemployment in Hawaii remains relatively high. Despite encouraging tourism figures, we are still struggling with hotel occupancy and daily expenditure rates.

Our K-12 public education system is in tatters, with still no resolution between empowered parties who could put an end to this madness. Politics, personal feelings and power grabs are superseding the need and desire for Hawaii’s children to receive a quality education to prepare them for a challenging world.

I don’t have the latest official inflation rates, but there is no doubt that living in Hawaii is becoming more expensive virtually every day. As a matter of fact, a recent report pegged Hawaii as the most expensive state in which to own a car.

Speaking of expensive prices, have you been grocery shopping lately? How about for clothes, toys, sporting goods or any other product or service? Now, with the “Cap and Trade” effort under way in Congress and President Obama’s Debt Commission developing, it’s clear that higher fees and taxes are on their way with a national value added tax (VAT) as the centerpiece.

After this session at home, a barrel of oil will cost you more and, if you are a business owner, you will be paying 60 percent more in unemployment insurance tax than you did last year.

Heaven forbid you should smoke. Taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products continue to escalate where the amount collected in taxes cost more than the product itself. Even wine and other alcohol are being taxed insufferably. OK, you may not imbibe, but others do. Since tax increases are shared one way or another, it’s still money being taken out of the economy and deposited into the state’s coffers.

The raids on special funds are profound with the controversial seizure of Hurricane Relief Fund moneys to prevent Furlough Fridays next year.

OK, you take the HRF assets for the Hawaii State Teachers Association (and to a smaller degree other associated union positions) to apparently make them whole. But what about the other state workers and their furlough sacrifices? It’s gotta be tough to watch others get theirs while you don’t.

Sure, I understand there are some who are ready, willing and able to sacrifice for the common good, but everybody has bills to pay.

So, what is the real message here? It must be that public education employees are more important than everybody else. That is certainly the sentiment of HSTA leadership and a majority of its membership based on their recent ratification vote. Where is the mantra for fairness, equity and parity now? Financially speaking, this whole Furlough Friday mess exposes the parties for what they are. Governor Lingle is exercising her fiduciary responsibility of steering our state away from the abyss, the HSTA is only interested in getting theirs and the DOE/BOE are like an appendix - it’s there, but they don’t really do anything to help.

Worst legislative session ever?

That’s up to you. I’m just glad it’s over.

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