Lingle details plans to improve business climate
By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer
Gov. Linda Lingle said she plans to announce today her choice for the head of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, saying the appointee will work to make the key business regulatory agency more business-friendly, efficient and fair.
Lingle said she also has chosen a new director for the Department of Taxation. And while she declined to reveal both appointees' names, she said the business community "will be very impressed" with the choices.
Lingle's remarks came as she revealed some of the first details of her promise to make Hawai'i "open for business" by removing "excessive regulations and heavy-handed oversight." She said her plan calls for major changes at DCCA, the Tax Department, and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
The latter department, which is tasked with a multitude of economic development functions, will likely be stripped of wasteful programs to give it a clearer focus, Lingle said yesterday at a reception for economic development organization Enterprise Honolulu.
The reception at the Halekulani marked the publication of a 32-page special section devoted to Hawai'i business opportunities in magazines California CEO and Washington CEO that business leaders hope will draw more investors and businesses to the state.
Lingle said DBEDT's marketing function should be eliminated because the private sector does a better job of attracting business to Hawai'i.
"They do a lot of things at DBEDT that other people can do better," Lingle said. "That is one of the most confused and confusing departments to deal with. They have been asked to do so many things that they've lost their main focus. We need to get them back to their main role, which is creating and sustaining economic development."
Appointing a DBEDT director will likely take longer than her other key appointments because of the department's uncertain future, Lingle said. She said she has frozen hiring at the department until its role is resolved.
The new DCCA director, if approved by the Legislature, would help eliminate bureaucratic obstacles, Lingle said.
She said the director will push for faster results from DCCA staff on permit applications and regulatory decisions and other public requests.
"Our strategy is to communicate that time has value," she said. "In government, that's not something that's always understood or respected. Every minute you spend in a line takes away from your family life, your work and your time with nonprofits."
Lingle said she would likely do away with the DCCA's current dual-pay permit system, which lets people pay more money to get their business permits faster.
"I don't think that's a good policy," she said. "It may be a good way of business for the dry-cleaner, but it sends the wrong message if government is saying, 'If you want good government, you have to pay more for it.' "
She also said she plans to lobby the Legislature to place a statutory time limit on DCCA regulatory decisions.
As for the Tax Department, Lingle said her appointee will try to make the department "treat everyone equally and fairly," and to use tax incentives and credits as a tool for economic development.