Legislators should accept invitation to middle ground
The governor has described the election results as a mandate for both her and the Legislature.
GOV. Linda Lingle's landslide victory and the continued entrenchment of the lopsided Democratic majority in last month's election may appear to have sent mixed signals, but the Republican governor regards the results as a call for bipartisan action
. Both parties should focus on areas where legislative action is necessary and success is most likely.
Having served a full term as governor, Lingle has established her administration as moderate, to the displeasure of what many regard as the GOP's conservative core. Democratic legislators have shown in the past that they are willing to work with the Lingle administration, as long as it does not encroach on what the public employee unions regard as their proprietary interests.
In her inaugural address this week, Lingle described the election results as "a mandate for the public for both me and the Legislature ... to work together to solve the state's problems, take advantage of the opportunities arrayed before us and preserve all that is special about Hawaii."
Lingle and the Legislature were able in this year's session to take measures designed to reduce the state's dependence on imported fossil fuels and development of alternative fuels such as ethanol. They produced a raise in the standard tax deduction and the taxable income thresholds for each rate. After balking previously, lawmakers agreed to ease restrictions in the state's wiretap law.
The governor has been less successful in attempts to remove school principals from union membership, despite their obvious management status, and reform the state's workers compensation system, among the worst in the nation. Revisiting those issues probably would be fruitless.
Instead, Lingle called for actions "to reposition our economy from one that creates wealth through the buying and selling of land to one that creates wealth through innovation and new ideas." The ethanol program could be considered such a step, but she gave no indication of other initiatives, promising "greater detail" and "specific programs" in her State of the State address to the Legislature in late January.
Rep. Kirk Caldwell, the incoming House majority leader, said that might be too late because Democrats already will have set their agenda for the legislative session. He placed his hopes on "commonality between the two so that we can actually get something done with no one claiming credit -- no ego, just doing the people's business."
At this early point, Lingle and Caldwell seem to be of one mind. The state administration and legislators should begin work as soon as possible toward achieving shared goals. At a post-inaugural luncheon, the governor said that the economy she envisages "pays higher wages, has better jobs, more technology-, science-, math- and engineering-based."