Wednesday, January 22, 1997

Governor’s proposals
could revitalize state

AFTER two years of financial distress, Governor Cayetano has outlined an ambitious program to spur the state's economy with both tax relief and capital expenditures. In his State of the State address yesterday, the governor offered the good news that Hawaii's fiscal house is in order and that a leaner state government is on the horizon. His main message was one of helping construction and tourism industries get back on their feet instead of them stumbling along.

Following City Council approval of a Waikiki Special Design District ordinance that allows hotel renovation, Cayetano proposes a two-year window in which hotels could claim as an income tax credit the entire amount of excise taxes paid for such work. Renovations are needed to provide enough first-class hotel rooms in Waikiki to accommodate the needs of the Convention Center when it opens next year. Such a two-year window is a good idea that may have to be widened to accommodate the time needed by hotel owners to plan and finance significant renovations.

In the meantime, Cayetano gave the tourism industry an additional boost with a proposed $10 million emergency gift to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Cayetano also proposed invigorating the construction industry, which lost 10,000 jobs in recent years, with further development of Kakaako, including the infrastructure for a major shopping center, as part of a $1 billion capital improvements budget over the next two years. Proposed tax credits for first-time homebuyers are aimed at eliminating the inventory of affordable housing and encouraging construction of new homes.

At the same, Cayetano brought forth a list of measures to stimulate diversified agriculture, high-tech businesses, health-care centers and export services.

Cayetano steered clear of controversial topics in his address, saying not a word about same-sex marriage, workers' compensation or high-three pension payments. He said he will submit an auto insurance bill that would reduce premiums and that he would seek "common ground" with legislators on that issue.

The governor's message may have sounded too ambitious for many lawmakers accustomed to frugal state spending. However, much of his plan amounts to making investments in areas that could pay big dividends in the future. Cayetano is right in saying that the state cannot afford not to do so. If every dollar is accounted for, as the governor assures the public, his plan could accelerate economic recovery - which should be the No. 1 priority of lawmakers at state, county and federal levels.

Gingrich’s reprimand

THE reprimand of House Speaker Newt Gingrich for ethical violations and his fine of $300,000 leaves a stain on Congress that will not be easily removed. For the first time in history, the House is led by someone who has been sanctioned for unethical conduct. The speaker should be a model of integrity, not an example of ethical malfeasance. Effective leadership and respect of Congress will be restored only after Gingrich is replaced by an unsullied member deserving of respect.

A dirty Keehi Lagoon

MUCH has been done in recent years to clean up Keehi Lagoon. The state forced the removal of numerous houseboats, and derelict and abandoned vessels, but the water remains foul. It is one of numerous shorelines in the nation that are of increasing concern because of pollution.

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