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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Lingle likely to veto 50 bills

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Gov. Linda Lingle today expects to veto about 50 of the 72 bills that remain on her desk, including legislation to establish a long-term-care tax, to extend tax credits on hotel renovations, to restore binding arbitration and to make it easier for sex assault victims to obtain emergency contraceptives.

The expected vetoes, added to the three bills she has already vetoed, likely will rank as the second highest number by a governor since statehood. Only former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who issued 84 vetoes during his first year in office in 1995, has had more. At no other time has there been even 50 vetoes although Cayetano hit the 40s on three occasions.

"I don't think it's a huge amount, but it's more than I expected at the beginning," Lingle said.

The vetoes do not center on any grouping of bills. "They're spread all around, and for a number of reasons," she said. "Sometimes it's a technical reason, sometimes the attorney general has said they're not constitutional, sometimes there are flaws in the bill — like there was one bill that allowed money to come in but never appropriated the money out."

On some bills, she said, "there are parts ... that are really good and there are parts of them that make them just unacceptable." While Lingle would not go into specifics yesterday, among the bills expected to fall into that category are bills involving long-term care, hotel renovation tax credits and emergency contraceptives.

One bill on her desk would establish a tax to pay for a long-term-care program and also set up a tax credit for those who purchase long-term-care insurance. Lingle has said she rejects long-term-care taxes but favors a tax credit.

Lingle said she favors extending the granting of tax credits to hoteliers who expand or renovate, but objects to the last-minute inclusion of credits on commercial construction.

She has said she would approve of requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraceptives to sex assault victims, but cannot understand why lawmakers chose not exempt the St. Francis medical centers, whose leaders have opposed the requirement on religious grounds.

Lingle said about 10 of the bills are being vetoed because of the state's financial picture. "There would be substantially less vetoes if we weren't facing over a $200 million shortfall over the next two years," she said. "It's a very serious situation."

As for the vexing issue of the state's $7.6 billion general fund budget, "I think it would be likely that I won't line-item veto much of the budget," Lingle said.

House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Hts., Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise), said he does not foresee lawmakers calling a special session in an attempt to override any of the governor's vetoes.

"It's her call, it's her decision and we'll just have to live with it," Say said. Instead, he said, lawmakers will spend the off-season addressing any concerns raised. He noted the cost of convening a special session.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.

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