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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, March 25, 1999


Legislators must resist
demands from unions

IN his recent meeting with Star-Bulletin editors, Governor Cayetano said government union leaders are fulfilling their expected roles in fighting for benefits for their members. It's our legislators who are falling down on their job of reining them in.

I argued in my column on Tuesday that union leaders ought to be more statesmanlike in helping government get out of some of the administrative and costbinds they have gotten us into.

Yes, said the governor, but the buck really stops with the Legislature. Legislators kill, revise or pass bills. They fund state bargaining agreements. Cayetano said he and they have the job of protecting the public interest when it differs from demands made by the unions.

It's too bad that sounds refreshing. It ought to be standard practice --but the Legislature has fallen too much under the spell of the unions. Union lobbyists are on the job daily and have good connections. Legislators hear more from them than the general public.

Governors have been tougher -- as when the state has taken a public worker strike or two -- but just about every bit of overregulation on the books has some governor's signature on it.

At national governors' conferences Cayetano said he has observed that states that are streamlining successfully are legislating with a focus on outcomes, the same as the private sector. They leave policing the crooks to auditors.

At home, we have a battery of complex laws, he said, based on distrust of people. So very, very true!

In government a dozen people may have to sign off on a check for goods or services that would clear a private industry treasurer with two. This is slow, costly and nutty -- often the result of legislators protecting themselves from criticism after a media expose by adding a new law they can point to.

We, the public, must educate lawmakers to the mood swing for more efficiency. This mood nearly defeated Cayetano in the last election. This same discontent can reinforce him now in his desire to use his final term to put taxpayer interests well ahead of self-servingdemands of the HGEA, HSTA, UPW and UHPA.

Cayetano said he can't succeed without legislative support. He misfired with his Economic Revitalization Task Force package last year -- in part because small business turned out to be his foe rather than his ally.

For the future it is important to line up small business, big business and taxpayer groups for a concerted push against government union excesses.

It fits with Cayetano's assignment to Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono to find ways reduce the complexity and volume of state rules and regulations.

The governor is talking sense. He needs support.



A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.




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