The low-key, somber tone that opened the Hawaii state Legislature session last week was the proper one.
The legislators let all of us know right off the bat with the unceremonious way they opened Wednesday that this was going to be far from a business-as-usual year. Gone were the traditional opening parties. In their place was the stark realization that the $1.2 billion budget deficit the state is facing has wiped the celebration right out of our lawmakers.
As Senate President Colleen Hanabusa expressed it, this could be the "most difficult session we will experience in our legislative careers."
House Speaker Calvin Say cautioned that the public needs to be ready for more cuts.
"Government cannot be everything to everyone. If you want more or better public services or facilities, be prepared to pay for them. Conversely, if you do not want to pay more taxes or fees, be prepared to receive less public services or facilities."
Those are very blunt and grim words from a politician. But the reality of Hawaii's budget situation dominates conversation on Oahu.
As Maui's legislators said in articles last week and this in The Maui News, the session is going to be more about protecting what has already been budgeted than putting in new items. Anyone going to the Legislature with a new spending proposal this session should expect - and will undoubtedly receive - the cold shoulder.
At Honolulu International Airport's Neighbor Island terminal Thursday morning, the headlines on the papers were about the quiet opening of the session. That is how big a contrast this year's attitude is with years past. It is making headlines. There's no time to celebrate - there is work to be done.
And that is the right attitude.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.