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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:40 a.m., Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Governor: raise liquor taxes, use hurricane fund

Full text of State of the State address
• Previous story: Cayetano likely low-key in last State of State speech
• What did you think of the governor's address? Join our discussion.

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Gov. Ben Cayetano delivered his last State of the State address before lawmakers today.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Gov. Ben Cayetano today called on state lawmakers to raise the liquor tax and use the hurricane relief fund to balance the state budget.

In his eighth and final State of the State speech, Cayetano said spent more time talking about the accomplishments of the past and laid out a modest agenda for the future.

He had already signaled to lawmakers that he would ask for both doubling the state's liquor tax and spending the $213 million surplus in the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund to help.

Both those proposals face legislative opposition heading into an election that year that will end with a new governor and where a majority of the state's elected officials are facing a race this year. Any tax increase faces opposition, in a challenging election year, the odds against it increase dramatically.

Despite his limited initiatives, Cayetano came up with some of his usual blunt assessments of his view of the political world, digging at fellow Democrats and at Republicans. Cayetano said he had to laugh when he read that House Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke wanted him to lay out a plan for the next five or 10 years. "I mean where have you folks been the past seven years?"

As for the GOP, he said that House Minority Leader Galen Fox pitched in to help cope with the current economic crisis setting politics aside. "He meant it and I was moved and proud to work with him," Cayetano said. But after hearing the speeches that opened the Legislature last week, Cayetano chided Fox: "It seemed like nothing had changed."

And he's heard from those against using the hurricane fund money. "My main concern is to balance the budget as we are required to do by law — and to do so without jeopardizing the safety net for our poor and disadvantaged," Cayetano said.

He warned that with education making up 52 percent of the general fund budget, that the Department of Education will not be spared from some cuts.

He requested $255 million this year for school repair and maintenance and $142 million to build a long-awaited permanent campus for the University of Hawai'i-West Oahu in Kapolei.

Cayetano finds himself back in a tough economic position, which is where he began his journey as governor in 1994. This time he's tightening the budget because of the slump that followed the Sept. 11terrorist attacks. "Like many Americans, I saw our country plunged into its worst domestic crisis since the Great Civil War."

This morning, Cayetano also released a 36-page booklet summing up the accomplishments of the first seven years of his administration: including building 13 new schools; "the largest tax cut in Hawai'i history"; and civil-service reform.