State House Republicans have offered up an agenda that includes proposals for tax cuts and more money for school textbooks.
The Republicans emerged from the November election with 19 seats in the House, and they hope to use their numbers to steer the Legislature in new directions.
House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R-Waikiki, Ala Wai) said Friday that Hawaii is "stuck on dead center" and needs to try something new.
"We have seven freshmen who tell us one message from the voters: We need change," Fox said.
House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, (D-Wahiawa, Whitmore) called the Republicans agenda "little more than an attention-grabbing ploy that purposefully panders to public misconceptions."
The Republicans proposed eliminating the general excise tax on food, medical services and rent. To balance the budget after the tax cuts, members of the GOP said the state can reduce the size of government.
Rep. Charles Djou (R-Kahaluu, Kaneohe) said eliminating the tax on food and medical services would save the average Hawaii family $600 a year.
Oshiro countered that a tax cut of that magnitude would cost the state millions of dollars in lost tax collections. As for the Republican proposal to balance the budget by leaving positions vacant when state employees quit or retire, Oshiro questioned whether the GOP intends to delay the hiring of teachers, counselors, nurses and corrections officers.
However, Oshiro told The Advertiser in a survey last month that he also favors eliminating the excise tax on food and rent.
Republicans also argued for more drug treatment programs financed with money from the state settlement with the tobacco companies, and proposed the state build a new privately operated drug treatment center where drug offenders could be confined.
The education proposals by House Republicans include plans to spend $6 million to provide textbooks for every secondary school student and a proposal for locally elected school boards.
The GOP also proposed raising school principals pay, and putting principals under contracts with performance goals.
The 2001 session of the Legislature begins tomorrow.