Friday, February 12, 1999

Caucus: Keep focus
on economy

Legislature Directory

By Terrence Lee


A bipartisan caucus of lawmakers favoring small business says the Legislature should be committed to economic and business reforms and not distracted by other controversies.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature "I think that while the legislative session goes in different directions in areas that may very well be important to a lot of people like fireworks, like even voter recount and other areas, we have not taken our focus off the economy," Sen. Sam Slom (R, Kalama Valley) said yesterday. "The economy remains the most important single issue."

Small Business Caucus proposals included familiar suggestions from a year ago, such as abolishing stress-related workers compensation claims, encouraging privatization and enacting general excise tax reforms.

Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Kahaluu) noted the caucus this year is focusing on a smaller array of issues.

Slom said: "We did not seek to have a long series of bills. We sought to have bills that are workable, that are broadly supportable on a bipartisan basis."

Slom said exemptions to the 4 percent general excise tax are needed to aid the state's small businesses. "It's something that businesses must pay immediately, and they pay it across the board.

"So if you really want to help the economy, that's what you have to do; you have to do that first -- even before personal income tax," Slom said.

Rep. David Stegmaier (D, Hawaii Kai) said that while the caucus is putting out similar bills each year, it has made gradual progress in areas like workers compensation.

"Yes, we're repeating the same themes, but we're making progress on them at the same time year after year," Stegmaier said. "I think we've sped up the process of supporting small business legislation in comparison to seven or eight years ago when we started the small business caucus. There's much more of a willingness to make sure that we support small business."

Other caucus proposals include reducing corporate income tax, streamlining government and implementing performance-based budgeting and tort reform to eliminate fears of business liability

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