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Lawmakers ready with overrides


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POSTED: Friday, May 08, 2009

State lawmakers return to work today—one day more than usual—poised to override three of Gov. Linda Lingle's vetoes.

Majority Democrats who control both chambers extended the session last week for the express purpose of overriding the anticipated vetoes.

Leadership said yesterday they expect to follow through on the intent.

"I feel very comfortable and confident that we will have the votes for the override," House Speaker Calvin Say said.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa added, "So will we in the Senate."

The governor, meanwhile, was counting on a last-ditch show of public support to help sustain her vetoes of three tax increases that she says will further erode the state's economy, lead to more job losses and stifle tourism.

Rather than in her usual office setting, Lingle signed the three vetoes yesterday at a public rally in the Capitol atrium, urging the boisterous crowd to call, fax, e-mail or visit lawmakers on her behalf.

"We have only one chance, and there's only one group that can do it and that's you. That's the public," Lingle told the crowd, estimated by the Department of Public Safety at about 400 people. "They need to hear from you. They need to know that you are aware of what these tax increases do."

The three vetoed bills propose a 28 percent increase in hotel room tax, an increase in personal income taxes on individuals earning more than $150,000 and couples making more than $300,000 and higher taxes for real estate sales over $2 million.

Democrats say the bills are critical to balance the state's $10 billion biennial budget. Leaders said tax hikes accounted for only 10 percent of the overall budget, with $800 million in department and program cuts making up the majority of the savings.

"We looked under every single rock that we could to find ways in which we could cut, and at the end of the day, we still had holes in the budget," said Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, the Senate Ways and Means chairwoman.

Lingle has criticized lawmakers for the tax increases and ignoring her proposals to try balancing the budget through cuts to public workers' hours and benefits that she feels her administration can achieve through collective bargaining.

Democrats said they could not produce a balanced budget with what they estimated was a $303 million hole that Lingle contended she could fill through public-worker concessions.

At a news conference before Lingle's veto ceremony, Say said, "By the end of the day, the Legislature will look good because they were responsible in balancing their budget."

To override the vetoes, lawmakers extended the 60-day session by two legislative days: Wednesday, which ordinarily would have been a recess day, and today.