Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Legislature 2002

Democrats sidestep
Republican bill recalls

By Pat Omandam

With House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) away on a state-sponsored trade mission to China, House Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke (D, Nuuanu) tested her parliamentary skills yesterday as Republicans recalled three bills to the House floor and debated a fourth.

The three GOP measures, which were introduced in the 2001 legislative session but stalled in various committees, dealt with creating local boards of education; exempting food, rent and health-care services from the general excise tax; and returning to homeowners any funds paid to the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund.

Democrats avoided any immediate floor debate on these issues by using their majority numbers to postpone discussion until Monday.

"This is campaigning at its best," House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa) said of the GOP's actions yesterday.

"This is one way of getting a lot of news coverage on your issues, and one way of putting bills out there that you know are probably not going to be reconcilable with the budget," Oshiro said.

Republicans took a similar tactic Friday when they recalled a bill that reinstated the tax credits for food and medical services that were discontinued in 1995. Debate on that recalled bill took place yesterday, with Republicans saying these tax credits must be reinstated because they are needed now to offset the GET, which they called regressive.

House Minority Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) said the graduated medical services tax credit was used by many, while the $55 food tax credit was needed by those with lower incomes. Fox said the repeal of that law seven years ago contributed to the sharp decline in Hawaii's economy.

"We took money away from the people of Hawaii, and the result was an economic downturn," Fox said.

"Let's reverse that mistake we made before. Let's give the money back to the people of Hawaii. Let's stimulate this economy and move toward prosperity," he said.

But House Human Services Chairman Michael Kahikina (D, Nanakuli) said these tax credits cost $53 million at a time when the state budget is already short more than $300 million.

Kahikina said he is astounded this bill was recalled so early in the session because many bills have not been heard yet.

He added there are better bills than this to support.

"This is really an embarrassment to the House, a waste of time and a letdown to the people of the state of Hawaii," he said.

The measure was eventually defeated along party lines.

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