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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2010

Republicans offering common-sense ideas

By Rep. Lynn Finnegan

The people of Hawai'i are counting on elected officials to create a more efficient government and live within our means just like everyone else does with their personal, family or business budgets.

The Republicans realize this and are offering solutions to reinvent government and support ways to help the private sector get back on its feet.

The Democrats' solution in both the House and the Senate is to raise taxes with either a 25 percent increase to the general excise tax or a multitude of tax hikes that equate to siphoning around $500 million more from taxpayers.

Instead of relying on residents to pay a larger bill for their government, there are myriad opportunities where we can change the way government looks and works. A notable example of reinventing government was implemented under our Republican governor.

The child welfare services branch in the Department of Human Services developed an innovative, Web-based system that more effectively evaluated risk factors in a child's home. The innovative system coupled with new DHS strategies for strengthening at-risk families and assessing the safety of their homes achieved dramatic decreases in the number of children in Hawai'i's foster care system, reversing Hawai'i's trend of high rates of placing children in state care.

DHS officials were thinking outside the box and changed process and method to attack the root of the problem versus to treat the symptoms. DHS was among the worst in the nation with 3,000 children in the foster care system. Now DHS is second best in the nation for having low re-abuse rates of children. Hawai'i now has 1,400 children in the foster care system.

DHS has another proposal that could save us millions, make the department more efficient, and make life easier on those who will be served by the program. Unfortunately, to accomplish all three of these goals, the state would lay off more than 200 people.

These are tough choices, but I believe the first role of government is not to employ, but to provide essential services that are best served by government and not the private sector.

The Republicans have offered more common-sense solutions such as cutting duplication of federal and state offices, curbing unlimited benefits to Medicaid clients while still offering generous coverage, and cutting services that should be provided by the private sector. These initial suggestions add up to almost $100 million in savings every year.

The Democrats believe when the going gets tough, government should stay the same or grow. The mantra is to protect government workers even if we cannot afford to do so. However, when expenses are larger than revenues we cannot just turn to the public and ask for more money.

Despite the common-sense nature of Republican proposals, government is often the most difficult to change. Legislative leaders need to support these innovations if Hawai'i is to move forward, instead of criticizing and fighting to preserve their favored state programs.

Government is usually designed to be slow to change, slow to adapt, and slow to act. While this can safeguard against inappropriate, overnight change, this nature can also stifle innovation and progress. In spite of this, the Lingle-Aiona administration and the House and Senate Republicans continue to push for more efficient government and government that lives within its means just as individuals, families and businesses do.