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Legislators should work with governor in handling crisis


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POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WHILE President Obama was extending his hand today to Republican caucuses in the House and Senate, Republican Gov. Linda Lingle promises "collaboration" with the Democratic Legislature to steer Hawaii out of the economic ditch. Bipartisan bridges are vital at the state level, and Lingle made good strides toward that objective in yesterday's State of the State address to lawmakers.

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STAR-BULLETIN

Lingle did not specify the measures she will be asking legislators to take, having called in the past weeks for stimulus components aimed at coping with projections in the past eight months that the state's annual tax revenue has declined by $1.4 billion. The gloomy estimate reflects historic nationwide declines in tourism, construction and business activity.

The Republican governor's approach in trying to "dig out" of the "deep hole" is remarkably similar to that of the new Democratic president. Just as the new president wants to tailor immediate actions to be forerunners to his long-term policy objectives, Lingle said the state "can't meet our responsibility by kicking the can down the road."

"Our solutions need to be decisive enough to address our immediate solution but, just as important, must prepare the way for our future," Lingle said. "Short-term solutions that merely defer the hard choices to those who will follow us are just as bad as no solutions at all."

Lingle's immediate strategy also is an extension of what her administration and legislators already have embraced: reducing the state's dependence on foreign oil, improving the islands' infrastructure and strengthening the state's agriculture sector.

                       
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» hawaii.gov/gov/initiatives/2009/address

She has endorsed the goal of achieving a 70 percent clean energy economy by 2030, established by the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. She said she will introduce several measures based on its recommendations.

Lingle also endorsed the recommendations by a task force created by the Legislature for improving the state's communication technologies, which are now an embarrassment. Obama said last month it was "unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world on broadband adoption." Hawaii recently was ranked last among states.

"While Hawaii was once the crossroads for trans-Pacific telecommunications, all of the new fiber systems built across the Pacific since 2001 have bypassed Hawaii," the task force reported. It cited a study estimating that positive economic effect of advanced broadband in Hawaii at $578 million a year.

Obama is extending his hand to Republicans in a way rarely seen in previous administrations, even though Democrats control Congress. Lingle said she "will do more than reach across the aisle; I will walk across the aisle," opening her door to legislators.

Democrats should find ways to collaborate in the same spirit, following the governor's reminder throughout her speech: "We can't afford business as usual."