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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

State Republicans' spin on 'yes' is misleading

By Rep. Blake Oshiro

Rep. Lynn Finnegan's recent commentary was inaccurate and misleading ("State Republicans claim 'yes' title," May 5).

The House Republicans' "yes" positions are nothing more than rhetorical exaggerations and partisan "spin," rather than meeting any obligation to the state of Hawai'i and its people.

In fact, it is ironic that she characterizes the positions as "yes" or "no" since by and large, even on the budget, the House Republicans voted in favor of a vast majority of all bills (fiscal and otherwise), and if anything, only provided "reservations."

To address the $3.3 billion deficit, one of the largest in the state's history, the Legislature approved a balanced budget for fiscal years 2009-2011 that relied on cuts and lapses to make up 50 percent of the shortfall last year, and more than 57 percent this year. This was all done without any increases to the general excise tax.

Any tax increases were targeted to affect less than 3 percent of the population, and made up only 10 percent of the shortfall last session, and 4 percent this session. To be clear, tax increases made up one of the smallest portions to balance the budget.

To take Finnegan's "yes" position on their "balanced" budget, means that the state:

• Must continue furloughs or cut employees' pay by 5 percent for two more years after 2011 (without this having ever been negotiated).

• Would have taken $100 million from the counties' share of the hotel room tax (which would have likely meant increases in property taxes or cuts in county services).

• Would not have restored critical positions in child protection services, adult mental health services, and occupational safety and health services.

These are untenable and unacceptable affects of the Republicans' proposals.

That, in sum, is the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties in the Legislature. The majority is tasked with the responsibility to ensure the state meets its obligations, provides for its citizens, and protects those who need it the most. The Republicans only have to concern themselves with taking "popular" positions and catering to those interests.

My hope is that in the future, partisan bickering can be put aside to work in the best interest of the state; that collaboratively, the Democrats and Republicans will come up with a cohesive plan.

I thought that the fact that the House Republicans all voted "yes" for the budget, despite some long-winded "reservations," was a sign of movement in that direction. However, as long as statements and inaccuracies like Rep. Finnegan's commentary continue, those days are apparently far away.