Lingle's plan for economy takes hits
New college scholarships and last-minute work force training proposals have been cut by lawmakers from Gov. Linda Lingle's sweeping plan to upgrade Hawaii's economy.
But most of the Republican governor's other ideas for putting the state on a path of innovation remain alive, including parts of her $30 million package that will encourage robotics learning, set up extracurricular high-tech academies in public schools, fund emerging companies and develop creative media.
Lingle had asked the Legislature to accept her innovation initiatives as a complete package, but Democrats, who control both legislative houses, are leaving their own mark on the legislation.
"Everyone agrees on the ideas and the concepts, but we may disagree on how to implement them," said Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho) chairman of the Finance Committee.
The scholarship program would have paid in-state college tuition to students who completed Lingle's proposed science and technology academy curriculums. The work force training proposal called for quick education of workers to meet market needs of new businesses arriving in Hawaii.
In addition, the Legislature rejected an initiative that would have moved the state's work force development staff from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
"When you take a look at all of the pieces, these are only three of the more than two dozen that aren't incorporated someplace," said Linda Smith, Lingle's senior policy adviser. "We're very satisfied with this legislative session so far."
The college scholarship proposal didn't make it because of concerns that its cost and requirements hadn't been refined enough, said Ted Liu, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, who has helped champion the governor's proposals.
Liu said he believes those issues can be resolved and the scholarship proposal revived by amending other bills later on this legislative session.
"The overarching question is: Does the state Legislature believe, given the needs of our work force and our economy, that this is an investment worth making?" Liu said. "I think we can work it out."
Regarding the rapid-response training initiative, some lawmakers discovered that a similar program already exists at Honolulu Community College to train technicians, carpenters, nurses and others, Oshiro said.
Moving the work force development staff didn't go far because lawmakers said they didn't see the need to change one bureaucracy to another.
Although Lingle pitched her ideas as a complete package, it's inevitable that bills will get amended, rewritten and shifted around as they go through the legislative process, said Sen. Carol Fukunaga, head of the Senate Economic Development Committee.
"This is pretty much standard," Fukunaga (D, Lower Makiki-Punchbowl) said. "You want to get as much input as you can before you adopt them into law."
While most of Lingle's proposals are still alive, some of them have either been approved only in one chamber or altered.
For example, her idea of creating a $100 million fund using money from the Employees Retirement System for emerging local companies only passed out of its Senate committee, and lawmakers deleted the dollar amount from the bill.
"What rises to the top is what we'll come up with at the end of the day," said Rep. Kyle Yamashita (D, Pukalani-Ulupalakua), chairman of the House Economic Development Committee.