View Point

Saturday, October 11, 1997

Governor is
playing favorites

Cayetano offers airlines a plum
and Hawaiians get the pit

By Rowena Akana

I was amazed and shocked to hear that Governor Cayetano is plopping a $40 million a year gift into the laps of the airlines serving Hawaii by suspending their landing fees for two years.

This comes on the heels of much brouhaha about the state's fiscal crisis for the past few years, including a statement by Budget Director Earl Anzai in September that the state is in for more financial belt-tightening because of its bleak fiscal condition.

In spite of this, the governor sees no problem in playing Santa Claus to the airlines, while playing Scrooge to Hawaiians when he asked the Senate and House to pass HB 2207.

This bill became law on July 1 and drastically curtailed the state's legal commitment to Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Act 329 bypasses existing legal and statutory obligations. It suspends revenue on ceded lands by placing a cap of $15.1 million on the income and proceeds from the pro-rated portion of the Public Land Trust under Article XII, Section 6 of the state Constitution for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians for fiscal years 1997-1998 and 1998-1999.

Yet only two months after the effective date of this legislation, the state suddenly finds that it has been sitting on a surplus of $800 million in the airport revenue fund!

The governor's press secretary, Kathleen Racuya-Markrich, said that the surplus was not directly related to money set aside to pay the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for use of ceded lands.

The state set aside $11 million in airport revenues for funds while attempts are being made by OHA to resolve issues relating to the Federal Aviation Administration's erroneous ruling that the state cannot use airport revenues from landing fees for such payments.

The governor is bestowing gifts that he can ill afford on the airline industry in a year of record profits for them. Landing fees in Hawaii are cheaper than those in almost any other state.

I agree with Bank of Hawaii chief economist Paul Brewbaker, who said, "Landing fees are user fees. Eliminate the fees and it shifts the burden to the non-user."

By giving the airlines this $40 million gift, Governor Cayetano is depriving Hawaiian beneficiaries of their 20 percent share of ceded land revenues. He is also depriving the general public and the state treasury of its 80 percent share of revenues.

Why gamble on the slim possibility that the airlines may decide to increase flights to Hawaii. Who is the governor kidding? Isn't next year an election year?

Making points with the airline industry at the expense of the people of this state is not acceptable. Is Hawaii in a fiscal crisis or not?

After all that he has said versus what he has done, can we believe anything that Governor Cayetano says?

Rowena Akana is a trustee with the
Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The opinions in View Point columns
are the authors' and are not necessarily shared by the Star-Bulletin.

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