"Everything comes down to money ... and finding out whether the state can really afford this," said Senate President Norman Mizuguchi, like Cayetano a Democrat.
State Budget Director Earl Anzai said it would cost nearly $26 million a year to lengthen the school year 10 days, as Cayetano is negotiating with the teachers union to do. (The union has neither accepted nor rejected the proposal.)
But that figure includes only the cost of extra teacher pay, not money for principals, vice principals and other school employees who may have to work more too.
At 176 instructional days, Hawaii has the shortest school year in the nation, according to the Department of Education.
Cayetano's proposal yesterday in his State of the State speech to add $4 million to the program over the next two years and to preserve the Ka Iwi coastline won immediate support from the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club. Spokesman David Kimo Frankel termed the plan "essential" and praised Cayetano's "strong support" for protecting the Ka Iwi coastline.
"Gov. Cayetano and Mayor (Jeremy) Harris are now committed to preserving the most accessible, undeveloped coastline on Oahu for Hawaii's families and for our future," Frankel said.
Cayetano said the state is awaiting the appraisal of 300 acres at Queen's Beach. He said the state may buy the land outright or work out a land swap with Bishop Estate.
The additional $2 million per year would be earmarked for bottom fish and coral reef recovery, stream rehabilitation and a public education initiative.
"Still," he added, "it does not answer how we keep our finger in the dike when others learn about our program. I wonder whether it will be a magnet for other legal immigrants in other states who might come to Hawaii to benefit from our state funds.
"If Congress is going to allow states to develop their own welfare program, it has got to help us develop fire walls. We can't have everyone who's eligible."
With the federal government refusing to help needy legal immigrants and giving states more responsibility for funding their welfare programs, Cayetano is pushing programs that reduce benefits.
But business owners had differing opinions about how much Cayetano's proposal would stimulate the two islands' economies.
"It would definitely help, and I would like to see it happen," said Judy Egusa, an owner of Friendly Isle Market Center Ltd. on Molokai.
Molokai businesswoman Kammy Purdy feared Cayetano's proposal might breed resentment among other Hawaii residents.
"I don't want it seen as a welfare island," said Purdy, a manager at the Pau Hana Inn in Kaunakakai.
Hotel executives like the proposal for a two-year tax holiday that would temporarily remove the general excise tax on money paid for renovations to improve existing tourist accommodations.
"It's certainly a positive thing to do," said Andre Tatibouet, chairman of Aston Hotels & Resorts Inc. "Anything like that shows a level of support for our industry and it should be applauded."
"It would be the equivalent of a 4 percent reduction in the cost of doing a project," he said.
Erik Kloninger, a manager at the hotel consulting firm PKF-Hawaii, said it will take a while to get all the numbers together but he called the hotel improvement an "encouraging investment in our visitor plant, particularly in Waikiki. That's a positive move for the industry."