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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

Working together fell by the wayside

Republican Fred Hemmings
represents the 25th Senate
District (Kailua, WaimÅnalo, Hawai'i Kai).

The spirit of bipartisanship at the state Legislature was looming at the onset of the 2003 legislative session. Most legislators had open minds and appeared willing and able to find new solutions to old problems. Dealing with the local economy, education and the long-term-care tax issue seemed to be our priorities, not our political labels.

However, being bipartisan is a two-way street, and bipartisan cooperation fell by the wayside in several instances this past session. Petty politics in the House, in my estimation, caused the recent problems regarding the allocations of capital improvement program (CIP) funds and most especially the failure of the Legislature to enact high-tech tax credit reform.

Recent reports verify what our Senate minority research documented in one of the first drafts of the CIP legislation. The research found that the allocation of CIP funds was highly politicized, with an excess of "pork" going to Democratic districts. These CIP projects were appropriations mostly for education and transportation/highway initiatives.

I will urge the governor to only release CIP project funds that were identified as high priority by the DOE, Department of General Services and the DOT. Senate Republicans will ask fair-minded legislators to eliminate the pork next legislative session. The Legislature should allocate CIP funds by need, not by back-room pork-barrel politics.

The failure of House Democrats to amend Act 221 to eliminate tax credit abuses is extremely suspect. During the legislative session, an e-mail from the executive director of the Hawai'i Technology Trade Association directly requested its members to buy $100 tickets to the House Democratic Political Action Committee fund-raiser. The e-mail directly solicited that the HTTA members support Democrats who were inclined to leave Act 221 unchanged.

It may be reasons like this that House Democrats raised an estimated $40,000 during a mid-session fund-raising event. Democratic House members consistently turned back the Senate's bipartisan efforts to eliminate the abuses in the high-tech tax credit law. These are many of the same Democrats who did not allow campaign and ethics reform to pass.

Come on, House Democrats, join us to work together for the common good of all the people of Hawai'i.