The 2012 legislative session opened this week to far less fanfare than in years past. This was done in recognition of the state of our economy and to cut back on expenses. Noticeably omitted was the wonderful entertainment that usually graces the state Capitol on Opening Day. That was expected. But, the crowds were missing as well. It appeared as though only 25 to 30 percent of the typical crowd (found in better times) came. However, it was still a great day.
The central focus was the directions shared by the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and the House. Here are excerpts from their 2012 Opening Day remarks that are aligned with our views.
Senate President Shan Tsutsui:
* Investing in our state facilities while streamlining the process for repair and maintenance projects is not only necessary but critical to providing a boost to our local economy.
* Encouraging the development of alternative energy sources to further implement the Hawaii Clean Energy initiative.
* Transforming the way we operate through the use of technology will also be critical in reducing the long-term cost of government.
* Working in collaboration with all stakeholders to not only ensure that we retain Race to the Top funds, but that we maximize its returns to provide the best education possible for our keiki.
Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom:
* Expenses must be cut back in the Legislature - just as individuals, families and small businesses have been doing for years.
* Immediately reduce the continuing job-destroying unemployment compensation tax increase set for March, pass overdue tort reform, reduce state spending, eliminate waste and debt and implement solutions to our massive unfunded liabilities, such as the State Employees Retirement System and State Employer Union Trust Fund.
* Prepare an alternative, supplemental, operating balanced budget showing where cuts should be made while keeping our pledge for "No New Taxes."
* Government schools must be fully vetted and incentives provided for students and meritorious teachers.
* Support measures to restore political power to our citizens, including initiative, referendum, recall and legislative term limits.
House Speaker Calvin Say:
* Maintain stability with respect to the state budget . . . (which) means no new taxes for state government from residents and businesses . . . (and) no major general fund appropriation increase for the expansion of state programs.
* Focus our efforts on maintaining the economic recovery and promoting immediate job growth.
* Seek ways to expedite the construction of state projects, so that money flows into the community.
* Seek ways to avoid mandates on businesses that increase their costs.
House Minority Leader Gene Ward:
* Encourage job creation this session instead of discouraging it.
* Small business set-aside for veteran-owned businesses.
* Incentives for small businesses to hire people currently receiving unemployment benefits.
* Require a two-third's vote of the Legislature before any tax can be passed.
* Ensure accountability and transparency in government.
* "Open Books" legislation that will allow people to check monthly state revenues and expenditures online.
* Produce our annual Republican alternative budget.
* 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.
* Protect our communities from the cybercrime wave sweeping our state.
* Continue to protect and grow our visitor and military industries.
We encourage everyone to read the full speeches, which contain explanations, great facts and far more information than we can include here. You can find them at www.mauichamber.com.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.