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Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Hawaii State Seal

Cayetano’s bid for
civil service reform

Bullet The issue: Governor Cayetano has called for reform of the state civil service to make it more effective and less expensive.

Bullet Our view: The proposals are essential to keeping state and county government viable in Hawaii.

GOVERNOR Cayetano's emphasis on education in his State of the State address was laudable, but in our view his most significant remarks concerned civil service reform.

Now that the economy is finally showing signs of life, and with his re-election victory behind him, Cayetano evidently feels the time is right to tackle this most controversial subject.

The governor did not spell out all of his proposals; he said he will be submitting 24 of them. But those he did mention are sound, although some will surely be controversial. He can expect opposition from the public employee unions in some instances -- which is probably why he waited until he was safely re-elected to a second and last term to make them.

But many of the legislators Cayetano was addressing will be running again and will be reluctant to incur the ire of the unions by passing measures they oppose. A lot of these proposals may get a cool reception.

Still, the governor is completely right in insisting on the need for reform.

Bullet As he contends, the counties should be given authority to conduct their own collective bargaining to meet their individual circumstances.

Bullet The recruitment and job classification system must be made faster and more flexible. The 1,700 existing job classifications should be reduced to a more manageable number.

Bullet The system of mandatory arbitration should be scrapped -- and the workers be given the right to strike -- except for police and firefighters, or at least reformed by reducing arbitrators' discretion to award pay raises.

Bullet Health benefits for state and county workers are too generous. A more realistic schedule of benefits should be instituted for new employees. Vacation and sick leave benefits must also be adjusted.

Bullet The state needs authority to privatize some functions while giving affected employees alternatives to dismissal -- implementation of the concept of "managed competition."

Cayetano has been thinking about some of these issues for a long time, going back to his experience as a state legislator. He is convinced that the state can't afford to continue giving such generous benefits to government workers -- often far more than is offered in the private sector -- and he is right.

The problem is the public employee unions are very powerful, and they are going to resist this attempt to take back some of the concessions they have won. The unions have become a vital part of the coalition of forces that keeps the Democrats in office in Hawaii.

The current session of the Legislature may become a battleground as a reform-minded governor takes on the public employee unions. The future viability of state and county government is at stake.

With the governor putting the prestige of his office behind civil service reform, he deserves the support of all citizens concerned with good government in winning enactment of his program.

Campaign contribution

Bullet The issue: The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed the constitutionality of limits on contributions to political candidates, extending the principle to state laws.

Bullet Our view: Congress and the states should turn their attention to regulating "soft money" contributions, now used to skirt contribution limits.

NATIONAL politics for the past quarter-century have been subject to limits on financial contributions made to candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed that standard and extended its approval to state elections. About two-thirds of the states, including Hawaii, impose limits on campaign contributions. The high court's ruling should encourage efforts to further reduce the influence of money in politics.

The Missouri legislature in 1995 enacted a law setting per-election maximum contributions ranging from $250 to $1,000, adjusted for inflation, to candidates for state and local offices. A candidate for state auditor complained in a lawsuit that the limits hampered his ability to campaign effectively.

In rejecting the candidate's complaint, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its 1976 decision upholding limits on contributions to candidates while adhering to its position that limitations on expenditures violated free-speech rights. Congress had approved $1,000 limits on individual contributions in federal elections, a limitation that remains today.

The high court has left intact the ability of contributors to use alternative methods to express support for a candidate. Individuals may continue to spend as much as they wish in support of a candidate in lieu of contributing directly to the campaign. Also, the ruling allows "soft money" -- contributions to political parties and groups that spend money without direct ties to a candidate -- to continue unregulated.

The decision left room for further reform aimed at regulating soft money, which has soared as a way to circumvent limitations on direct contributions. President Clinton called the court's decision "a victory for democracy," but that will depend on how Congress responds to the opportunity.

Congress should reject proposals to restrict contributions to advocacy groups, which would violate freedom of speech.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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