Lingle praises lawmakers' work
Several issues she championed were adopted by legislators
Meet the latest fan of the 2006 Legislature: Gov. Linda Lingle.
"I really enjoyed this session, unlike past sessions that have been torturous for me and my Cabinet," Lingle said yesterday.
After noting that the Legislature should have done more to cut taxes, Republican Lingle passed out bouquets to the Democrats, calling the current session the best she has seen.
Lingle has reason to praise the Legislature because several of her high-profile issues were either adopted or used as a portion of a Democratic measure.
Energy, tax cuts, disaster preparedness, homeless issues and affordable housing were all issues Lingle championed and were taken up by the Legislature.
"Based on what has come out of the conference committees and the discussions I have heard, it has been a very good session," Lingle said yesterday at a news conference in her state Capitol office. "Both the House and the Senate and legislators in both parties kept focused."
In the area of cutting taxes, Lingle was both a winner and a loser. She started the session asking for $300 million in tax cuts and rebates, trimmed that to $120 million at the session's end and settled for cuts of only $50 million.
But included in the tax reductions was an adjustment in the standard deduction, which has not been changed in two decades and will help the working poor.
"I think what they did was a very, very small first step." Lingle said. "I am glad they understand that if you are going to do something that the standard deduction is a good place to start."
The governor also singled out Senate President Robert Bunda for praise, saying his and her tax plans "were in synch."
"His idea of widening the tax brackets was something we picked up on and adopted, and our idea about the standard deduction was something he picked up on," Lingle said.
Bunda said Lingle's tax suggestions at the beginning of the session in January served as a starting point, but much of the state's $600 million surplus had to go to other demands.
"Her idea of tax reform was basically the tax rebate," said Bunda (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea).
The state cap on the wholesale price of gasoline was another issue that Lingle appears to have won, as the Legislature is set to suspend it.
"The price of gasoline is a world issue, and something like a gas cap is not going to control the price of gas," Lingle said. "The market is going to control the price of gas."
Lingle was also successful in getting changes to two crime bills that she has failed to move in past sessions: the so-called three-strikes bill, which would imprison for 30 years people convicted of three separate violent crimes, and a wiretap bill that would allow city and state prosecutors to use evidence obtained from federal wiretaps. Both expected to be approved.
Also, Lingle said she has gotten 90 percent of what she wanted in an omnibus energy conservation bill.
On the issue of housing, Lingle said she and the Legislature were also seeing eye to eye.
"We got them to change the definition of affordable housing. We got them to put more money from the conveyance tax increase into the affordable-rental trust fund, and it will give us more opportunities to get affordable rentals on line," Lingle said.
This legislative session, Lingle noted, was eased because of the large state surplus, so it was possible to agree to things that both she and the Legislature wanted, instead of having to pick one or the other.
And, the governor said, she and the Legislature started to get to know each other.
"This was a more collaborative process, partly the Legislature and partly us," Lingle said. "You try to build up trust, and our credibility is higher with them."