Batten the hatches, a perfect storm is near


POSTED: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Much as former City Councilman Frank W.C. Loo once warned that “;we are sitting on a time bomb and it is about to blow up in our faces,”; Hawaii's Legislature has summoned up a perfect storm of controversy for 2010.

Next year is an election year with lots of open seats including governor, possibly mayor and perhaps a dozen council and legislative seats. Now is the time for plotting and slotting.

But, this year it appears that while half of the Legislature's Democratic majority was busily crafting scaffolding for a 2010 campaign, the rest of the Democrats were just as eagerly sawing through those timbers.

Civil unions is the best example because it is just the kind of wedge issue that is so easy to exploit.

While advocates argue that allowing same-sex couples the same rights as given heterosexuals, conservative Christian opponents are all the more ready to condemn. This year the issue came up, got half the way there, but Senate leaders got cold feet and dropped it.

Cooler heads, collaborative meetings, serious open discussions—insert whatever diplomatic cliche you wish, but there is no way civil unions will be anything else but a lightning rod to suck up all the political energy in the state next year. Democrats pass it and it gives Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona a huge opening for his campaign for governor; Democrats don't pass it and the newly energized advocates feel betrayed.

To go from tropical disturbance to perfect storm, we need more then just activist Christians at the barricades, we need public workers with no contracts and a budget bleeding nearly $1 billion in red ink. That's potentially coming and that means so are more tax increases.

That's what you call a perfect storm.

Hawaii's economy is not turning around; instead it is still in serious trouble. More businesses are failing, layoffs are roiling across the state and tax collections are expected to continue to tank.

At the same time, the budget passed by the Legislature is built on the assumption that the collections will go from MINUS 5 percent to plus one-half percent by next year. Don't bet on it.

Instead now is the time for politicians to get one of those fancy all-weather band radios, because the storm is brewing.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Wednesday. Reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).