By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau Chief
To figure out where House Democrats are headed this year, you might read the "majority agenda" released to the press yesterday.
Or, you might try reading tea leaves.
The 32 House Democrats released a 15-point agenda they will pursue, but House leaders acknowledged yesterday they dont know if theyll have the money or the political means to actually pass many of the proposals.
Last year the Democrats listed more than two dozen bills in their ambitious House majority package. Some of their proposals included periodic re-registration of firearms, a new information privacy law, a new managed competition system and public financing of campaigns.
All of those proposals died, with three of the four failing because key House Democrats didnt really support them.
This year, House Speaker Calvin Say, D-18th (Palolo, St. Louis, Kaimuki), said the Democrats decided to make more generalized statements about what they intend to do.
"We just didnt want to be locked into these bills, but we do have an agenda with benchmarks that we want to accomplish," he said.
So, Democrats announced yesterday they intend to "reduce taxes for those who (are) most in need."
That could mean tax credits or refunds for working families, but Say warned there might not be enough money in the budget for that.
Democrats also said they intend to increase the state minimum wage from the $5.25 an hour.
But if that doesnt happen, Say said, perhaps the state could adjust the tax structure in a way that benefits low income families.
The Democrats agenda pledges to "address the growing demands for health care and services for the elderly," perhaps by offering tax credits to encourage people to buy long-term care insurance.
But again, Say said that also may have to wait if there isnt enough money.
"This is all going through the process right now of public deliberation and public hearings," he said. "Until we get a better handle of what the (state tax collections) will be like, then you can get a better grasp of what we can really expend."
Some of the Democrats other proposals call for supporting high-tech and biomedical industries as well as renewable energy; implementing "campaign finance reform;" and making state government more efficient and responsive.
The Democrats also pledged to compensate teachers "adequately," and "provide schools the basic tools to instruct our students textbooks, supplies, computers and a modern infrastructure to support the 21st century education."
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