Get the job done
Civil service reform, a drugWater fluoridation urged
treatment program and more
construction are Cayetano priorities
By Pat Omandam
Gov. Ben Cayetano plans to seek funding for a new substance-abuse treatment program for drug offenders during the next legislative session, even if his plan to pay for it by raising "sin taxes" -- state taxes on alcohol and tobacco -- is killed by lawmakers.
And the governor has left little doubt about what he believes will be the "defining issue" for the upcoming session: civil service reform.
Cayetano said yesterday that if lawmakers are productive and agree to modernize the 60-year-old state civil service system, they won't have to fear a public backlash in the 2000 elections. Last session, there were more than a dozen unsuccessful reform bills, dealing in areas ranging from the calculation of overtime in retirement benefits to a drop-dead date for civil service.
"You know, the best kind of politics is getting the job done," Cayetano said.
"If they get the job done, I think the Legislature won't have to worry about elections."
$47.1 million in add-onsThe governor sent his supplemental budget message to state lawmakers yesterday in preparation for the 20th Legislature's opening on Jan. 19.
He is asking lawmakers for $47.1 million in add-ons to the $5.9 billion fiscal year 2000-2001 budget that was passed earlier this year.
The supplemental budget gives the Department of Education 400 new positions as well as an additional $21.9 million, of which $8.3 million would be for special education as part of the Felix consent decree.
The Health Department would get an additional $22.7 million. That amount includes $7.9 million to meet Justice Department requirements for the Hawaii State Hospital. An additional $13 million would go to Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to offset revenue shortfalls in the state hospital system.
House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) said yesterday the House could agree to the $47.1 million in add-ons if the proposed budget incorporates the spending restrictions on departments imposed in this year's budget.
Also, the governor's plan to raise user fees and taxes to make certain programs self-sufficient could generate some of the additional funding, Say said.
Cayetano said he hopes lawmakers will adopt his policy of having people who drink and smoke pay for programs that treat illnesses and afflictions caused by these habits, as well as the drug treatment program.
"Alcohol and tobacco wreak havoc on the state, on people," Cayetano said. "It is a very, very expensive kind of activity, and I think the people should pay for it."
But Say said he is concerned about raising sin taxes. He explained that these taxes have gradually gone up over the past four years, and revenue charts show that as the taxes increased, consumption dropped and revenues generated fell short of forecasts.
"So the concern I have is, if the governor had earmarked the increase for drug rehabilitation and you don't achieve that threshold, you cannot fund the program," Say said.
Construction projectsHouse Minority Leader Barbara Marumoto (R, Waialae Iki) said she hasn't reviewed the governor's supplemental budget, but said House Republicans are always nervous about tax increases because they view them as counterproductive.
"We generally don't look favorably on tax increases, and we generally vote against them," she said.
Along with additional funds for the Education Department, the governor has set aside an additional $1 million each for the University of Hawaii colleges of business administration, engineering and medicine.
Meanwhile, the governor wants more construction projects. He has proposed increasing the state's two-year construction budget to $1.4 billion, up $272 million from what was approved earlier this year.
Some new projects include $45 million for school repair and maintenance, $27.9 million for improvements at Honolulu Airport, and $2 million to complete the $10 million first phase of the Kapolei Public Library.
Cayetano to proposeAssociated Press
fluoridation of water
Hawaii is one of the few places in the nation without fluoridated drinking water, and Gov. Ben Cayetano says the time is past when children should be given the tooth decay protection.
"We're the healthiest state in the country, except for our teeth. Our children have the poorest teeth in the country, and we're going to propose that our water be fluoridated," Cayetano said.
Fluoride is proven to help prevent tooth decay, but is now only present in the military water systems on Oahu.
The last time the state Legislature seriously considered fluoridation was in 1987 when a bill approved by the Senate died in the House, largely due to opposition from neighbor island lawmakers concerned about the cost.
Some critics are also concerned fluoride could cause other health problems.
But Norman Chun, legislative chairman of the Hawaii Dental Association, said continuing studies have shown more and more benefits of fluoridated water, including help in slowing bone density loss in the elderly.