Letters to the Editor


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Our leaders need common sense

The state Legislature has come up with an unusual solution to the recession problem: raise taxes.

Why don't they do something to help consumers, like suspending the GET surcharge on consumer spending until the recession is over?

The governor would like to gut the tax credits for investing in Hawaii-based tech businesses. At the same time, she is promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in our public schools. But why promote STEM if we're going to cut off the air supply to STEM-based ventures in Hawaii?

The mayor enjoys raising taxes and fees, too. Motor vehicles, real estate, golf games and getting into the zoo will cost more.

And Mayor Mufi Hannemann hopes to break ground on his rail fantasy this year, whether we're in the depths of recession or not.

Common sense must not be a requirement for public office any more.

Tony Clapes




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Lingle incapable of innovation

I am outraged by the tactics of the governor as her strategy unfolds in the state's budget struggle. She played her hand brilliantly, portraying the Legislature as the bad guys as they are forced to make harder calls because she refuses to come to the table with tax increases on the wealthy as a budget option. Instead, she is gunning on pay cuts and benefit reductions for middle-class county and state workers.

Her obstructionist strategy resulted in the Legislature's going after TAT (transient accommodations tax) funds distributed to the counties, $18 million of which will be withheld from Hawaii County, to fill the state's projected budget shortfall. She then comes to the Big Island and proclaims she is the county's only protector of these funds, stating she has veto power over the bill, but withholds any promise to use it, to strong-arm our mayor into casting his vote to support her in cutting county workers pay and benefits. Unbelievable.

I propose the counties and labor collaborate to reduce labor costs through innovation, which the governor is apparently incapable of. Create incentives for senior county/state workers to retire. Vacate the positions of the highest paid workers by encouraging mass retirements. This also creates job openings and increases the population of consumers with income who do not need jobs (retirees).

Take the initiative to create savings in a positive way, deleverage the governor, and make her reach into her box for more than one tool to do her part.

Juergen Canda
Keaau, Hawaii

Kakaako project merits funding

Two of Hawaii's most talked-about goals are to diversify the economy and to improve education. It is surprising then to see that a current project, the Kakaako development by Kamehameha Schools, which addresses both goals, is coming under some pressure from the state.

The Kakaako revitalization project includes dedicated space for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) education, a vital component of improving education and creating a qualified workforce for the kind of businesses we want to attract.

On the economic development side, the project includes development of wet lab space, an absolute requirement for the creation of a biotech cluster, a stated goal for Hawaii.

We appreciate the difficulty of balancing the varying needs and goals of the state. In this case, however, Hawaii is fortunate to have a highly qualified and financially sound partner in Kamehameha Schools to pursue two of its most important goals.

It is disappointing to see this type of pressure when other states, such as Massachusetts, California, Maryland and others, are making significant commitments to developing a knowledge-based economy. As special as Hawaii is, it is part of the international marketplace, and global competition for clean, well-paying businesses is fierce. To reach our goals of a better-educated workforce and diversifying the economy, let's embrace the Kakaako project and clear the way to make it happen.

Elliot Parks, Ph.D.
CEO and president,
Hawaii Biotech, Inc., Aiea
Bruce R. Stevenson, Ph.D.
Executive director and CEO,
Pacific Health Research Institute, Honolulu

Contracts stall highway plan

I'm utterly frustrated that the bidding process for the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Phase II widening project has dragged on for this long. This project should've already been under construction. However that has not happened due to bid-award protests from Kiewit Pacific Co. and Hawaiian Dredging.

I largely place the blame for this at the feet of the state Department of Transportation. It seems it can't correctly solicit and award a highway construction contract. This is totally unacceptable, especially in light of Hawaii's weak construction industry. Contractors like Hawaiian Dredging and Kiewit Pacific Co. are scrambling for any kind of construction work.

I hope the DOT can move forward with this important roadway project in a timely manner. The residents of West Hawaii deserve nothing less.

Aaron Stene

Added costs broaden budget

John Kawamoto stated that from school year 1999-2000 to 2006-2007, the Department of Education's operating budget “;more than doubled”; from $972 million to $2.186 billion (Star-Bulletin, April 20). He's right.

A large portion of the budget increase can be attributed to general-pass-through costs. General- pass-through costs for DOE employee benefits, debt service, and risk management totaled $605 million during 2006-2007. Previously reported under the state Department of Budget and Finance through 1999-2000, these substantial costs were transferred to the DOE in 2000-2001.

Special-education costs and program transfers from other state agencies (e.g., student transportation, minor repair and maintenance) accounted for another $282 million.

In 1997, Hawaii's consumer price index was 171.9; in 2007, it was 216.6, an increase of 26 percent. In other words, a $1 billion budget needs to grow by nearly $260 million over the same period just to maintain services.

We hope this information is helpful to Mr. Kawamoto and clarifies any “;gas guzzling”; misperceptions he has regarding the DOE.

James Brese
Assistant superintendent and chief financial officer, DOE Office of Fiscal Services