Much work ahead, Isle lawmakers say
State House Speaker Calvin Say challenged lawmakers today to be "unselfish" in their work as they prepare to deal with a $1.2 billion state budget deficit.
In remarks prepared for the Opening Day of the 60-day session, Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Wilhelmina Rise), said the state is still coping with the fallout of an international financial meltdown not seen since the Depression.
"Let us put the overall public good before narrow benefits to special interests," he said.
In the state Senate, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa asked senators to work collaboratively with the House and Gov. Linda Lingle on solutions to the deficit.
"The Capitol is quiet today," Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), said in prepared remarks. "The crowds and celebrations that typically accompany an opening day of the Hawaii State Legislature are absent. Because while we still welcome with open arms anyone who wants to ask for our help or express their point of view, we know that this session will be different. Now is not the time to celebrate. Now is the time to work."
State House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, R-32nd (Lower Pearlridge, Aiea, Halawa), called for changes in public education and the budget to position the state for the economic recovery.
"All of the legislative measures we will introduce focus on putting students and their needs first," she said of education in her prepared remarks.
"Remember, the fundamental purpose of our educational system is to educate ... not just to employ. Furlough Fridays demonstrate that we are not succeeding in our mission to put students first."
For the first time in memory, the state Capitol was not awash in flowers, music and food, as lawmakers canceled traditional Opening Day parties in the spirit of austerity.
The session is scheduled to adjourn April 29, a week earlier than usual.
Lawmakers trimmed the number of recess days to shorten the legislative timetable and help direct attention on the budget.
Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-8th (Kahala, Hawaii Kai), used the no-frills opening as a starting point for a call against raising taxes.
“If the majority party's goal today was to show the public we understand their pain and tough financial straits, rather than cancel our celebration, we should pledge that we will not increase taxes,” Slom said.