Friday, April 16, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Gov lays into
‘do-nothing’ session

Cayetano puts more blame
on the Senate, saying senators
seem incapable of making
the tough calls

A new prison, or pardons?

By Mike Yuen


The Legislature is on the verge of concluding "a do-nothing" session, and the Senate, more than the House, is at fault, Gov. Ben Cayetano says.

Senators are seemingly incapable of making tough decisions, he added.

Cayetano chastised both chambers yesterday for refusing to back his proposal for a publicly funded prison on the Big Island.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature The governor said that if he is forced to seek private financing, which he believes .will be more costly, he may have to pardon inmates to relieve prison overcrowding.

Cayetano also criticized lawmakers for not moving quickly on civil service reform.

The Senate's slow response to what many see as the electorate's demand that lawmakers quickly address the state's pressing problems stems in large part from the Senate's co-chairman system, Cayetano said.

That working structure is geared to pleasing everyone, and it has shackled Senate President Norman Mizuguchi, "who is capable of providing good leadership," Cayetano said. "You can't get anything done if you try to please everyone," he added.

And while five newly elected senators failed in their attempt to oust Senate Majority Leader Les Ihara Jr. (D, Kaimuki), the architect of the chamber's co-chairman system, Vice President Avery Chumbley (D, Kihei) and Ways and Means Co-Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga (D, Makiki),the governor said, it did send a "good" message. That message, he said was: "There are people within the ranks who feel that the public has great expectations and more needs to be done."

Mizuguchi (D, Aiea) refused to engage Cayetano.

Told of Cayetano's "do-nothing session" remark, he replied,"I'm not going to comment because I don't want to pick a fight with the executive. My energies and my particular desires are to work with the House and to get us through this legislative session."

Both chambers are moving toward significantly reducing the "pyramiding" of the 4 percent general excise tax, which is applied at all stages of production and sales and which has long been a sore point with businesses, Mizuguchi said.

Any assessment of the Legislature's performance will have to wait until after the session, scheduled to adjourn in 18 days, Mizuguchi said.

"At this point good relations between the House and the Senate are more crucial than what the governor is saying," added Mizuguchi, who feels it was unnecessary for Cayetano to add his commentary on the Senate's internal power struggles.

Cayetano's concern with lawmakers concluding a "do-nothing session" have earlier been voiced among Senate Republicans, veteran dissident Senate Democrats and first-term Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae).

Cayetano said House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) and Majority Leader Ed Case (D, Manoa) "have been working very hard to try and make things happen" during this year's session.

The governor added that tough-minded administration initiatives, such as privatizing most of the state mental hospital's services and bringing Hawaii in line with other states by no longer calculating overtime in the retirement benefits formula, have received a cool reception in the Legislature or been dismissed outright.

"There has been resistance to almost every change we have proposed - to civil service, or retirement benefits, and to the kind of cost items that make it difficult for us. They're not capable of making these kind of decisions," Cayetano said.

The Senate, Cayetano said, can't say its budget proposal is a reflection of hard decision-making.

"I don't see anything tough about cutting vacancies. There's no one in the job," he said.

Both the House and Senate "have been very cautious and conservative in bringing about any kind of civil service reform," he added.

"The fate of state employees is always a concern. But in every case I've talked about, most of the impact would have been prospectively -- not impacting on people who are there already. Yet they're still not able to do it."

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