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StarBulletin.com

State's lack of foresight has us making lemonade


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POSTED: Sunday, September 27, 2009

When life hands you lemons, as the advice for perseverance goes, make lemonade.

If followed, the islands would be submerged in the citrusy sweet-tart drink, what with the overflow of acidic issues and predicaments of the day.

From spring and summer, discontent streams toward fall and winter as money, that which largely makes the world go round, washes through one difficulty or another. And each solution, it seems, generates more problems in tides of consequences, predictable or not.

Public school teachers, whose paychecks—like nearly everyone else's in Hawaii—fundamentally arrive when a tourist flies in, will go without them for 17 Fridays through the school year.

This fix for money shortage is a pass-on, no-pass-back complication for parents, who will have to take days off themselves or spend their cash for child care.

Unless prudence prevails among government and union leaders, cafeterias, classrooms and gyms could be unoccupied but for administrators and maintenance workers, and as seen countless times through the decades, common sense doesn't often figure in with state bureaucracies. Kids will lose 17 days of instruction, which could make meeting federal education standards all the more difficult, and, more important, cut into learning.

Meanwhile, state unemployment insurance taxes now averaging less than $100 per worker a year will surge 10 times higher in April, likely stifling new hiring, if not threatening current jobs.

This unmanageable situation is due to short-sightedness among elected officials who decided two years ago to make a big show of cutting the tax dramatically without considering that rainy days might come along, that a bad economy might shed jobs and require more unemployment benefits be paid out.

Had they hedged their bets a little, employers would not be pinched just as there's a glimmer of economic recovery.

Lack of foresight continues in the state's financial decisions to dismantle money-makers, like the state film office which has brought in $1 billion in revenue through the last eight years. Reducing the number of agricultural inspectors to the point of crippling the ability to clear plants and foods could sideline exporting businesses while leaving the islands vulnerable to environmental hazards that in the long run will prove more costly.

The lemons keep coming, but some are finding ways to make them palatable, if not profitable. Child-care businesses are ready to watch the keiki on furlough days. Community groups are also stepping in to fill the need.

Parents themselves could mix up their own concoctions, forming cooperatives with parents of their children's classmates. They could ask schools and teachers to provide lesson plans so kids can read or do extra homework instead of video-gaming and boob-tubing. They could arrange visits to parks and museums.

They'd be squeezing their own lemons, blending a much fresher product than what's in the government-issued, government-dependent chill-chests.