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Friday, January 12, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Senate Republicans
propose $170 million
in spending cuts

By Crystal Kua

THE three Republicans in the state Senate are proposing to cut government spending by $170 million through reducing positions but not jobs.

The minority caucus unveiled its legislative package of proposals that deal with the economy and taxes, education and government restructuring. The session opens Wednesday.

Even though the Republicans are only three among 22 Democrats, they said they are optimistic they can succeed.

"We will be successful if the public will stand with us," Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) said.

More than half of the $170 million in cuts can be met through eliminating 1,700 positions, 4 percent a year through attrition. That comes to about $93 million.

"No one will lose their job in our proposal," Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Kailua) said.

Privatizing the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which runs the state hospitals as a quasi-government agency now, could save $15 million annually, and taking the responsibility of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands off the state books would amount to $14.5 million in savings a year, he said.

Taxpayers would reap the benefits of a leaner government through tax cuts, Hemmings said.

Hemmings said the Republicans will also try again to eliminate the excise tax on food, medicine and rent.

With education, the Republicans are proposing several ways for the state to gain control over the costs associated with complying with a federal court mandate to improve education and related services for special-education student in the public schools.

One of those proposals includes giving parents a tuition tax credit if they decide to have their child "opt out" of the public school system and into a private school.

The Hawaii public school system is "plagued by uncertainty, and frankly, if it's not reformed, it could break," said Sen. Bob Hogue (R, Kaneohe).

Republicans also want to fix the repair and maintenance debacle and once again try to create local school boards in each county.

Slom said that civil service and collective bargaining need to be reformed, but not through the "manini reforms" that were passed last year. "All of that amounts to nothing."

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