Tax cuts look unlikely as legislative deadline nears
Lingle and Hemmings express satisfaction that many of their energy plans are alive
Lawmakers are reaching the midpoint of the session this week with some contention and, they say, still a lot of potential to leave a legacy after the 2006 session.
But as for tax cuts -- we'll see.
Thursday marks the day by which all the bills that passed the House must cross over to the Senate for approval and vice versa. Whatever has been left behind in either house is essentially dead for the session -- though their contents might reappear elsewhere.
Among the session's biggest issues is the future of Hawaii's weekly cap on wholesale gasoline prices, which appears to be set for some type of change.
Elsewhere, both houses have found a significant amount of consensus on expanding affordable housing and funding services for the homeless, putting more money into public education, supporting agricultural services and repairing irrigation systems, creating a new $100 million fund for high-tech projects in Hawaii, and encouraging the local use of alternative energies.
Plans by Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings and Gov. Linda Lingle to help free Hawaii from its dependence on imported oil through encouraging alternative energy use and research have stalled. But both say they are satisfied that many of the points made by their bills are alive in measures still moving through the Legislature.
"As you know, almost everything that we proposed is moving in one bill or another," Lingle said Friday.
And like majority lawmakers, Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) said the Legislature still has the chance to turn out energy legislation that will be viewed as a landmark for the state.
"I'm sure that after 30 years of going backward on energy independence that this will be the session that we at least start turning around and heading in the right direction," he said.
Hawaii will also lead the nation in child health coverage if legislation supported in both houses launches a pilot program to provide health insurance to every child in the state, said Rep. Josh Green, vice chairman of the Health Committee.
"Every child in Hawaii will be insured -- completely. And the state of Hawaii will be the first state," said Green (D, Keauhou-Honokohau).
But among the ideas still struggling for survival despite a projected $574 million revenue surplus are tax cuts.
"We'd like to pass out some tax reform measure at the end. But it would be premature at this time to raise expectations not knowing what the revenue projections will be and not knowing how we will address all of the needs in our budgets," said House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa-Poamoho.
The Council on Revenues' revised projections -- which have consistently been in the stratosphere for awhile now -- are expected today.
House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan (R, Mapunapuna-Foster Village) said she would consider any tax cutting measure coming out of this session a success.
Minority Republicans in both houses as well as Lingle pushed hard at the beginning of the session for a list of tax credits, rebates and reforms.
For the most part what are still alive are the measures tabled during the final moments of last year's session -- including two bills long supported by Senate President Robert Bunda to raise the standard income tax deduction and revise the state's income tax brackets to ease up the tax burden on the poor and middle class.
Bunda (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea) said he would be "ecstatic" if the measures get approval this year.
"I feel comfortable that there might be something," he said..