Gov. Linda Lingle's final State of the State speech Monday had a lot of things to like in it, but as one Maui legislator remarked, the devil is in the details.
Lingle deserves credit - a lot of it - for proposing a mitigation of the skyrocketing increase that is going to hit Hawaii's unemployment taxes this year. With estimates originally as high as $1,000 per employee, the governor is proposing at least a 40 percent cut in that number. If it is not mitigated, the unemployment tax itself will cause more unemployment.
The governor's plan to give hotels and resorts renovation tax credits is also an excellent idea. It should create construction jobs and the finished work will make Hawaii an even more attractive place to visit. The jobs created - and the resulting income tax paid by those workers - should pay for the credits.
It is also a good idea to create a "fiscal-stabilization" fund. This will not just be a renaming of the current "rainy-day" fund, but will actually be a plan to put aside money in good times to help us through the bad ones. We have recommended this several times in editorials. In effect, it will require the state to save money when revenues are high to help through the downturns.
Too often when times are good, government insists on spending every cent that comes in. A little frugality in boom times would help us through the bust times.
We were disappointed in the response from our legislators to the governor's call for making the Department of Education a Cabinet department with a superintendent hired by the next governor. Lingle believes that the current hodgepodge with the governor, the Legislature, the Board of Education, the Department of Education and the superintendent all involved leaves nobody accountable.
We're not sure if the governor's plan is the answer, but we know changes in the running and funding of Hawaii education is long overdue. Legislators need to at least allow a dialogue to see how states with more successful educational systems are run. Furlough days, low teacher salaries and poor facilities indicate a state that doesn't take education seriously.
While this legislative session will be a tough one, it should be a very interesting one. We hope the main focus will remain on creating jobs. But legislators also have to admit our educational system isn't working - and begin taking steps to fix it.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.