February 09, 2012
The people of Hawaii remain concerned about their future—will they have a job, will they be able to cope with the increasing cost of living, will their government be able to balance its budget without cutting back essential services?
These are questions that need to be addressed in the 2012 Legislative Session because current policies are not sustainable. With over 57% of Hawaii’s families not making enough money to pay for their kids’ public school lunches without a subsidy, Hawaii can little bear the usual legislative cost of living and tax increases that occur every time the legislature sits.
We believe if the state is to be put back on the road to stability and prosperity, we must change course and begin a recovery program in the 2012 Legislative Session. Our purpose is to stabilize jobs, create economic growth, address over-spending, and improve accountability and transparency in government.
Though collectively we represent over a quarter million people in our various districts, we speak for the people in the entire state who want a more viable alternative to single-party rule, back-door politics and opaque policies that have caused every man, woman, and child to be indebted for $25,000 to their state government for pension and health benefit liabilities. Put simply, Hawaii has not lived up to the economic and educational expectations of its citizens and needs to be put on a recovery program.
There are four steps that can be taken in the 2012 legislature.
Step#1 Create certainty and confidence among Hawaii’s people.
Businesses and consumers will not spend money if they feel the future is uncertain or unstable. No spending means the economy shrinks.
To help people know they can keep their hard-earned dollars, we are proposing legislation that would require a two-third’s vote of the Legislature before any tax or fee can be passed. We will also insist that there be a new openness in the legislature with a minimum 48-hours notice before any legislative committee holds a hearing or makes decisions. We will also offer legislation that requires the “loser to pay” for a lawsuit. People should not have to use their life savings to defend themselves against frivolous lawsuits.
Step #2 Ensure Accountability and Transparency in government
The people of Hawaii deserve more than an annual peek into government’s check book. State financial records should not be kapu or obscured by fancy accounting. We have created “Open Books” legislation that will allow people to check monthly state revenues and expenditures online and on their home computers.
We will also offer legislation to require that every piece of legislation include a “price tag” so that legislators and the public know what a law will cost before it is passed.
We also will ask for closing down of Special Funds–places where your money is squirreled away that gets little attention in the annual state budget review process.
Step #3 Protect our Communities
A new type of crime is going viral among us, and it’s called Cybercrime. We have formulated legislation to stop such things as computer-scams and fraud, identity theft, cyber-bullying, and character assassination. Existing laws simply have not kept pace with the technical sophistication of criminals.
Our Caucus’s bills will make it easier to help Hawaii citizens who are victimized. For example, we will require computer fraud laws be strengthened and penalties for unauthorized access to a computer be significantly increased. Internet service providers will be asked to retain records for several years so that police and prosecutors can obtain the evidence they need to stop cyber-criminals. And web designers and related computer experts will be required to be licensed so we can maintain the highest standards to stamp out cybercrime.
Step #4 Pass Real Job Creating Legislation
The private sector creates jobs but government can assist. We will introduce green jobs legislation through PACE- Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE allows homeowners to save on their electric bills by installing renewable energy systems (PV) and paying for them through county property tax assessments.
We also believe veteran-owned businesses should get a fair shot at Hawaii State contracts through a set-aside and preference program, and finally, we are proposing an unemployment tax credit that would encourage businesses to hire people currently receiving unemployment benefits and allow an offset of taxes equal to the cost of these benefits.
The above four-step approach can put Hawaii back on the road to recovery for a better economic future and a Better New Day in Hawaii.
About the author: Rep. Gene Ward is the House Minority Leader in the Hawaii Legislature. He represents Kalama Valley and Hawaii Kai.