Workers have ideas on goal of Legislature
Education and taxes are on the minds of some in the downtown area
As crowds of workers hustled through the streets of downtown Honolulu this past week, many voiced hopes of seeing a cut in their state income taxes by the time lawmakers finish their work in May.
"I'd like them to discuss reducing the tax," said Michael Kawasaki, a 56-year-old financial analyst.
Kawasaki said he doesn't plan to pay much attention to much else at the Capitol as lawmakers prepare for the Jan. 18 start of the 2006 legislative session.
He was one of several island residents interviewed about their hopes for the 2006 Hawaii Legislature during a recent downtown lunch hour.
Steven Yu said he also has only limited attention for the Legislature -- in his case mostly concentrated at the end when the biggest decisions are being made.
But Yu said he'd like to see lawmakers increase the standard income tax deduction and do more about homelessness in the state.
"I think the problem has gotten worse over the years," said the 30-year-old law firm records clerk.
Elizabeth Jubin Fujiwara, 60, an attorney, said the state should help take care of those who can no longer afford the high rents of Hawaii.
She's also worried about the rights of the homeless.
"I'm concerned that they're often harassed by the police," she said.
Fixing the state's public education system -- which has long brought up the back end of national rankings -- also tops lists of what needs attention in the state.
"For the money that's going to them ... the public education is below average," said Leslie Tyson, 40, who works as an executive assistant.
Her friend, Stacy Ellefsen, said she recently sent a series of letters to schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, as well as the mayor, Council members and others, complaining that the state's special education system is inadequate.
Only one state lawmaker replied but said he couldn't help, she said.
Ellefsen said her son, a high school sophomore, was switched from one special education category to another, and no one could tell her why. He also hasn't been properly tested since second grade, she said.
"Meanwhile, I'm paying taxes ... big time," said the 40-year-old executive assistant.
Regina Orr said she'd like to see the Legislature require more oversight and advocacy for the Health Department. Orr said both the health and education departments have told her that she needs to be the advocate for her learning disabled daughter. But they don't make it easy for her to know exactly what services her daughter is entitled to, she said.
Even if lawmakers just required a user-friendly, searchable database to be posted on the Health Department's Web site, it would help, Orr said.
And while only last year the Legislature passed a bill to raise money for public transportation through an increase in the general excise tax, Karen Cunningham, 60, said she wants to see more done to get a solid transit plan going.
"Words, no action," the commercial real estate broker said of lawmakers' efforts. "I would like to see action."