The Governor presents
the State of the State
Cayetano emphasizes government reform
'We cannot continue to operateFull text of speech
with a structure geared to the
Industrial Age,' the governor
says, pushing ideas for reform
By Richard Borreca
In a tough-minded, sparse speech this morning, Gov. Ben Cayetano committed his administration to reforming state government by making public workers more responsible.
In his State of the State address, Cayetano called for reducing benefits for new hires -- including vacation, sick leave and retirement. To reform the state's huge education system, Cayetano said teachers should be tested for competency by the start of the 2001 school year.
"Teachers who are not knowledgeable about their subjects are of no help to their students. It's unfair to the teacher, and it's unfair to our children," the governor said.
Cayetano only briefly mentioned several of his new ideas, including fluoridation, to focus the spotlight on his plans for government reform.
"We cannot continue to operate with a structure geared to the Industrial Age," he said.
Calling the present civil service system "inefficient," Cayetano said he wants to free the counties to negotiate their own collective bargaining agreement. And he said the Board of Education and the University of Hawaii regents should be given more authority to manage their employees.
At the same time, the governor wants to allow all public employees, except for police and firefighters, the right to strike.
Right now, the Hawaii Government Employees Association union members, nearly half of the state's work force, is covered by binding arbitration. That means an arbitrator decides whether the state can afford to give the workers a raise.
"It is too vague and broad, and gives arbitrators too much discretion to make decisions that have no relationship to the state's true fiscal condition," Cayetano said.
The Cayetano proposals are sure to cause concern among the politically powerful public worker unions. In another of the his 21-point reform proposals, Cayetano said he wanted to give the state more options to privatize government operations.
Cayetano is enough of a fan of privatization to say that the only way he will approve building another prison in state, instead of shopping around the Mainland, would be to give him the authority to fully privatize it.
"There is no getting around the fact that building and operating a new prison in the islands is too expensive," he said.
In his speech, Cayetano sought to reassure workers by saying he wants to "give employees alternatives to being laid off."
In fact, Cayetano assured workers that none of his reform plans would affect current state workers.
"Fairness and merit are at the core of our reform proposals," he said.
"The fundamental challenge before us, however, is to change the existing government culture.
"Too often, the needs of the community become secondary to an almost mindless deference to the system," he said.
"The taxpaying public deserves better. Our state employees who perform deserve more."
Besides government reform, Cayetano proposed that the state minimum wage be raised.
He said this would be done to help persons now on welfare, who would be removed from the roles under the federal welfare reform act.
He did not hold out hope that the estimated 3,000 families would get a state-sponsored reprieve, noting that they are off the rolls "whether they like it or not."
Cayetano did have some money to hand out; he proposed spending $1 million each for new efforts by the University of Hawaii medical, engineering and business schools.
He also suggested spending another $1 million for community colleges to retrain workers for high-tech jobs.
New jobs in technology may already be here, but the workers are not, so Cayetano is proposing an online expatriate recruitment website at www.techjobshawaii.org, to bring local workers back to Hawaii.
"Lets bring our kids back home," he said.
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