Change for a Better Hawaii
Rep. Galen Fox
House Republican Leader
January 17, 2001
You have on this floor the largest group of Republicans ever to sit in the Hawaii State House. We grew with seven new representatives, the greatest increase ever to Republican numbers in the state House. To a person, these new representatives of the people said they were elected by voters looking tbr change.
We Republicans have a responsibility to offer change. We hope the majority party also heeds the public call for change Hawaii often seems caught up in reverence for the past, tbr battles fought and won long ago. But nostalgia for Governor Bums and his era should not substitute for action in the 2lst Century. Hawaii has fundamental problems that demand real changes. Let's get to work on real change, and lets begin now.
I wish to address three changes that can help Hawaii the most. First, we seek to change our approach to public education. Second, we want to change Hawaiis approach to government. And third, we would like to change Hawaiis approach to the outside world.
Let me speak first about changing public education. The current system of running public education is broken. Repeatedly, the majority has sought to do away with an elected board made up of people forced to campaign either throughout Oahu or in all neighbor island counties. Board members campaign virtually state-wide for ajob that pays nothing. No wonder must of us cant identify the Board of Education members.
In 1997, the Governors Economic Revitalization Task Force recommended substituting county boards for the unworkable statewide board we have now. Republicans seized upon that recommendation, suggesting that Oahu be broken down into four district boards, making the boards all roughly the same size. Shouldnt we all recognize that large school districts --and Hawaiis statewide board runs one of the nations largest school districts -- just dont work?
Republicans offer two other changes to help make the local school systems work better. First, we favor the governors proposal, made when he was lieutenant governor, to elevate principals to CEO status, with more autonomy and substantially higher pay. In exchange, the principals would work under limited term, performance-based contracts they negotiate with the districts. Second, we believe all secondary school students should be guaranteed their own textbooks.
Hawaii will benefit greatly from changed public education.
Second, we seek to make government smaller to provide Hawaiis people relief from our high cost of living. The difficulties of living here are driving relatives and friends to the mainland. During the lost decade of the 1990s, Hawaii sent a larger share of its population to other states than any other state.
We pay the nations highest state and local taxes combined. These high taxes make Hawaii a less desirable place to live and invest. High taxes contribute to economic difficulties. Taxes help explain why Hawaii had the lowest growth rate of any state in the 1990s. Not surprisingly, a recent study of Barely Making it on Your Own in Hawaii found taxes were often the leading cost item for low income working families. Our excise-based tax structure hits low income working people the hardest, people who have to buy food, pay rent, and sometimes lack medical coverage.
Making government smaller is the only sure way to lower taxes. President Clinton presided over a major downsizing of the federal government in the 90s that reduced its payroll by 5 percent. At the same time, federal wages rose by 20 percent after inflation. In Hawaii, by contrast, the state payroll rose 25 percent, with no increase in state wages after inflation. Lets reduce the state payroll and raise wages for those who remain.
Smaller government will provide savings that allows working people to keep more of what they earn. We do this best by joining to eliminate the excise tax on food, medical services, and rent. The tax savings will average $600 for a family of four, money that families can spend on their real needs. And as the Governor has noted in talking of other tax reductions, the savings will stimulate economic activity. With smaller government and tax cuts, we help families and boost the economy too.
Third, we seek to change Hawaiis relationship to the outside world. Hawaii has too often given up its natural resources to outsiders to attract income, whether cutting down sandalwood, importing hoofed animals that tear up the environment, changing the landscape to export sugar and pineapple, or giving up beaches, reefs, and sealife in pursuit of tourism.
We would like to help Hawaii compete globally and effectively for needed investment. To do so, we should stop exploiting natural resources, and make it more attractive to invest in Hawaiis people. Governments role is to help with education, and get out of the way of clean, knowledge-based industry. Look at what works elsewhere, from Silicon Valley to its competitors surrounding other universities. Look at overseas successes such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Ireland. Government/business/community cooperation works best. When the goal is wealth creation, the means to that goal is community-wide cooperation led by entrepreneurs, the private sector, and for-profit firms. Government supports, but the private sector leads.
We are government. We should support, not lead. Support with better education and smaller government creating healthier, more prosperous families We should provide environmental protection while providing a changed investment strategy involving government, but with a healthy private sector taking the lead.
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