Republican-led Legislature would be better for Hawaii
In the last election, the majority of Hawaii's voters in all 51 House districts voted for a Republican governor and lieutenant governor. Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona were re-elected overwhelmingly because they have shown leadership and results. They have tackled key problems facing our state including education, tax relief, affordable housing and homelessness. They have shown vision and promoted programs for Hawaii to better compete in the new global economy.
They have received little help from our Democratic-dominated state Legislature that has lost touch with the concerns of our community. If the same majority of voters who re-elected Lingle and Aiona had voted for Republicans in the state House and Senate races, Hawaii would be well on its way to solving its chronic problems.
Here are some of the tough problems that Hawaii has faced for decades:
The governor and lieutenant governor have worked to improve Hawaii's public education system, ranked 48th in the nation. Hawaii's operating budget is over $12,000 a year per pupil, yet only 64 of every 100 children entering the ninth grade graduated from high school. Hawaii's private and charter schools, independent of the Department of Education, have spent less on average and graduated almost every student. The Legislature stopped the governor's effort to allow local control of schools on each island and underfunded her efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning in our schools.
» Tax relief
The governor and lieutenant governor have worked to lower Hawaii's regressive taxes. Hawaii's state tax on a single mother with one child kicks in at wages of only $215 a week. Only one state taxes its poor at a higher rate. The Legislature blocked significant tax reform last year and passed only one-third of the tax relief proposed by Lingle. The governor's proposal would have refunded $780 to a family of four with income of less than $50,000.
» The homeless and affordable housing
The governor increased the funds for emergency and transitional shelters from just $4 million to $40 million and for the first time ever provided state funds to repair public housing facilities. The Lingle-Aiona administration's Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has accomplished more than in any time in our state's history. In contrast, in the seven years before Lingle-Aiona, the Legislature raided $212 million from state housing funds and last year cut half of the administration's proposed $148 million for affordable housing.
» A vision for Hawaii's future
Lingle set forth a bold set of initiatives to transform Hawaii's economy by developing our innovative capacity, rather than depending upon wealth created by land development. These initiatives in education, work-force development and global links have been praised by the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation and the National Governors Association.
The Democratic Legislature has shown little leadership in setting forth a vision for Hawaii's future of more choices and of high-paying jobs for our youth. The Legislature talks of "sustainability" and "diversification" and spent $2 million on task forces but shortchanged funding for Lingle's bold effort. Thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation and $500,000 from the William and Belinda Gates Foundation, the programs have moved forward.
» Change for the better
Hawaii has the opportunity for success in the 2008 legislative session if the Democrats address these tough issues. Otherwise, in November, Hawaii has the opportunity to make a change for the better when we elect state senators and representatives. We will not start to fix our problems until we elect more legislators who have a vision of Hawaii as a better place to live, not just the status quo.
Hawaii needs more legislators who share the vision of our governor and lieutenant governor and a lot fewer Democrats who obstruct progress for purely political reasons.
Willes K. Lee is chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party.