Tuesday, January 23, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Governor's ideas don't always survive

'Hawai'i's economy is back,' governor says
People comment on governor address
Program showcases lieutenant governor
Full text of the State of the State address
Join a discussion on the governor's speech
Previous story: Governor ponders legacy

By Kevin Dayton and Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

As they say at the State Capitol, the governor proposes and the Legislature disposes.

Gov. Ben Cayetano delivers the State of the State address. Behind him are Lt. Gov Mazie Hirono and Senate President Robert Bunda.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The agenda Gov. Ben Cayetano set out for legislators yesterday sounds impressive, but a little perspective is helpful: Legislators have a history of rejecting many of the governor’s favorite ideas.

Last year was no exception. Of the nine major proposals Cayetano included in his 2000 State of the State address, about half were rejected outright by lawmakers.

Cayetano’s government reform proposals survived — barely — but they were so diluted that Cayetano dismissed the package as a mere "first step."

And although the governor signed into law an educational accountability bill, the measure didn’t exempt accountability from collective bargaining. Cayetano had wanted that exemption so the state would have a free hand to take action against teachers who don’t perform adequately.

Among the proposals that did make it through the Legislature were $1 million appropriations each to the University of Hawaii medical school, the UH business school and the community colleges’ advanced technology programs.

But other Cayetano proposals from last year’s speech were stopped by opposition from public employee unions and business interests.

Increasing the state minimum wage died in conference committee in the last days of the 2000 session. Cayetano is reviving that idea this year.

Statewide fluoridation of drinking water died early in the session after both the House and Senate rejected it.

Cayetano also plans to try again to get this passed this year.

Cayetano’s idea to increase alcohol and tobacco taxes to raise money for substance abuse treatment for criminals failed in both houses.

Authorizing a privately operated prison was another loser. Legislators instead passed a bill to set up "managed competition" so private companies and public employees could compete for the right to run a new prison. Cayetano vetoed it.

Periodic teacher competency testing never got going after the teachers’ union argued that teachers already are being tested.

Cayetano wanted to establish a $50 million state venture capital fund to encourage high technology ventures with money from the state investment in Digital Island and money from the state Employees Retirement System. Lawmakers approved other measures to try to help technology companies, but the fund was never established.

Cayetano said yesterday that the plans he offered up in this year’s address won’t be an easy sell, either.

"These are just proposals, and it’s going to be up to (legislators) to go forward," he said. "I think that they’re open, but like anything else, if I was in their shoes, I’d ask hard questions, and they’re going to do that."

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