STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
State of State urges putting politics aside
|||Schools set for repairs but not spared the ax|
|||Few economic initiatives in speech|
|||Here's how governor's agenda for 2001 fared|
|||Peers praise governor's speech|
For the most part it was the softer side of Gov. Ben Cayetano on display yesterday in his final State of the State address, but there was also a challenge.
In his last session as governor, Cayetano advised lawmakers to "for once, put politics aside. Let's discuss the issues frankly and truthfully so the people will know what's at stake. We owe them the truth. We owe them the courage and wisdom to make wise decisions. We owe them hope. We owe them a better and greater Hawai'i.
"I really believe the best kind of politics is getting the job done," Cayetano said. "That's what I've tried to do in my 28 years of public service. And even if you don't get it done, I believe the people will know how hard you tried and respect you for it."
The governor didn't unveil any of the jazzy new initiatives that are the traditional fare of State of the State speeches, which disappointed some listeners. Honolulu City Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura interpreted that as a calculated tactical move.
"What he's telling the Legislature is, 'Look, you folks have been difficult in the past when we've come forward and said hey, this is what we want you to do. Well, this is my last year, you folks come forward and do what you think is right,' " Yoshimura said. "He's really kind of put it on them to put their money where their mouth is."
Cayetano spent most of his 50-minute address outlining the accomplishments of his administration, but also devoted time to budget initiatives he had already proposed publicly. He noted his administration plans to increase the state liquor tax and tap $213 million in the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund to help cover a $300 million shortfall in the state budget.
"If you disagree with this proposal and I have heard the speeches we are open to your suggestions," Cayetano said. "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."
He warned that with education making up 52 percent of the general fund budget, the Department of Education will not be spared from some cuts.
|Cayetano's 2002 agenda|
|Highlights from Gov. Ben Cayetano's eighth and final State of the State speech:|
|||Proposed raising the state liquor tax and using the $213 million in the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund to help balance the state budget. He first proposed this idea last month.|
|||Called for lawmakers to spend at least $255 million for school repair and maintenance to help reduce the backlog.|
|||Asked for $142 million for the University of Hawai'i to build a permanent campus for the long-stalled West O'ahu campus, now slated for Kapolei.|
|||Again made a pitch for $900 million worth of government-bond backed construction projects.|
All of those proposals face legislative opposition heading into an election year that will choose a new governor. All 76 seats in the House and Senate also are up for election.
Senate Republican Floor Leader Fred Hemmings said the Cayetano speech was "heartwarming," but that his proposal to raise the liquor tax to help balance the budget "is one of the reasons we have economic problems in Hawai'i." Hemmings said increasing taxes is not the way to help the economy.
Hemmings also criticized Cayetano's plan to boost construction spending to help the economy, calling it "foolhardy."
"The concept of stimulating the economy by building an edifice without improving the economic environment has proved to be failed in the past, and I don't see that's going to change in the future," Hemmings said.
Cayetano became emotional near the end of his speech, as he reflected on his journey from boyhood in Kalihi to a career in politics. He paused for a few seconds as he recounted asking Gov. John Burns why he appointed Cayetano fresh out of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and with no political connections to a state commission.
"He looked me in the eye and said, 'Well, Ben, there are not too many young Filipinos from Kalihi who become lawyers.' He did not have to explain I understood what he meant and what he stood for."
Bruce Asato The Honolulu Advertiser
Governor Ben Cayetano answers questions from news media after delivering his State of the State address.
Bruce Asato The Honolulu Advertiser
He also cited his efforts to cut taxes and diversify the state economy, noting growth in healthcare, biotechnology and high technology. Cayetano said his administration approved 10 acts that lowered taxes by $2 billion over six years, including the largest income tax cut in state history.
His final speech was not all roses, however. Cayetano came up with some of his usual blunt assessments of his view of the political world, digging at Democrats and Republicans alike. 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 these people 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."
CORRECTION: Gov. Ben Cayetano graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Because of an editors error, a different school was named in an earlier version of this story.