Lingle making headway stumping for high-tech
Lawmakers are endorsing the heavily marketed $30 million development package
Appealing to radio listeners, talking at board meetings and testifying for hours at tedious legislative hearings, Gov. Linda Lingle is trying to sell her plans for boosting Hawaii's technological development.
Lingle has embarked on a personal marketing blitz for her $30 million package that aims to transform the state's economy with programs encouraging science education, business investment and international trade.
"You can feel the momentum is building for this," Lingle said. "You don't just come out and talk about it and let it go. You have to keep it up through the entire session."
It's the Republican governor's highest-profile effort and biggest commitment of time and energy to one issue since her unsuccessful first-term campaign to break up the state public education system.
This time, she appears to be meeting with more success. So far, every committee in the state House and Senate has either approved her proposals or scheduled hearings on them for later this week.
The governor started her tech reform push through private meetings with lawmakers, teachers, executives and members of the media. She followed that up with a slick brochure released along with her State of the State address in January.
Since then, she's spent hours pleading the cause at more than a dozen committee hearings in hopes that lawmakers will keep the four bills in her legislative package moving.
"My personal appearance is meant to underscore both to legislators and to the public how important I feel these measures are," Lingle said. "We're trying every way possible, the same way you would try to market an idea for anything."
Those efforts include TV interviews, appearances before chambers of commerce, visits to the neighbor islands, mailed letters and meetings with community leaders.
To promote one of the most difficult aspects of her plan -- a $100 million fund using money from the Employees' Retirement System for emerging local companies -- Lingle met with ERS trustees at their board meeting Monday. After hearing objections that the initiative could jeopardize the fund's tax status, she offered an amendment to the proposal to make it more palatable.
Other aspects of the package would create technical academy programs within the state's public schools, give tax breaks for college tuition, build a digital media center and create an Office of International Affairs.
Even Democrats, who have an 80 percent majority in both legislative houses, are supporting most of the Republican governor's plans.
"Her package is resonating in the House because people agree with the concept and the ideas," said Majority Leader Rep. Kirk Caldwell (D, Manoa). "At the same time, the question has to be asked: What kinds of jobs are we creating? We don't see that in the innovation package."
Much of the job creation in Lingle's proposal would come with investments from the $100 million fund, but the Employees Retirement System is still studying Lingle's plan.
After the governor appeared before the House Labor Committee yesterday to argue for the investment fund, her economic development director stopped David Shimabukuro, administrator for the $10.7 billion retirement system, in the hall of the Capitol. "We'll work this out," said Ted Liu, director for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, who has been helping to sell Lingle's plan.
Part of the reason for urgency is because each of Lingle's bills was referred to several committees that must clear them before a deadline tomorrow evening.
LINGLE'S ECONOMIC INITIATIVES
Gov. Linda Lingle is pitching initiatives contained in four bills designed to guide the state toward her economic vision. They include:
» Creating two "academies" in public schools to equip students with the technical skills they'll need to compete for high-value jobs. These academies will be voluntary additions to the curriculum.
» A $100 million Hawaii Innovation Fund to finance technology and creative industry companies. The money would come from the state Employees Retirement System.
» Providing breaks for college tuition savings accounts of up to $20,000 in tax deductions.
» Starting a privately led science and biotech research facility and technology incubator at Kakaako.
» Developing a digital media center that could be used for software design, electronic game development, TV and film production, special effects and animation.
» Promoting musical education and skills in partnership with Tennessee's Belmont University.
» Public Internet access in state government buildings, including libraries and schools.
» Founding an Office of International Affairs.
Source: Associated Press