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Wednesday, January 17, 2001

2001 Legislature

Senate President | Senate Minority
House Speaker | House Minority
Opening Day

Opening Day Remarks
State Senator Sam Slom, Minority Leader
(R 8th D-Aina Haina to Hawaii Kai)
21st Legislative Session


"Building Our 'New Hawaii Economy'
On Sound Principles"

Mr. President, Colleagues, Governor Cayetano, Distinguished Guests, Friends, and Families:


I am honored and privileged today to present comments reflecting positions of your Minority— the emerging Senate Majority! — for the upcoming 2001 Legislature on behalf of Floor Leader Fred Hemmings, Policy Leader Bob Hogue, and myself.

Our citizens in the gallery, at work, in school, and in their homes, have waited patiently for their legislators—especially their Senators—to achieve meaningful change and results,

not based on partisanship, but on fundamental principles. We have not served them well in the past, but we will in the future, and promise to depart from 'business as usual.'

Hawaii requires revolutionary change —out of the box thinking—based on moral principle, not rhetoric, or political strategy designed to benefit a chosen few. Some politicians describe their spending plans as "visionary;" the public often views them more accurately, as "delusionary."

We are optimistic, positive, determined, and energetic to help bring long delayed change to Hawaii. Many colleagues share our goal. We are not a "loyal opposition;" our loyalty is to leadership of this state. We extend our friendship, support, and willingness to work openly and diligently to the Senate leadership, the House, Governor, and all of Hawaii's residents. We seek broad citizen inclusion in the marketplace of ideas.

We will agree —and disagree —on issues as this Session progresses. We will do our best to honestly highlight options, alternatives, and ultimately, solutions, to challenges facing Hawaii. We do not desire to deal in personalities, only in issues impacting us all.

Our approach and philosophy, however, is different from failed policies, parties, and promises of the past, and our voices will be strong in advocating a "new" economy, built by consumers—the working men and women of Hawaii—not politicians, that preserves sound principles of thrift, investment, rationality and accountability.

By background and experience, we are result-oriented and goal driven. We want Hawaii to succeed. We are business-experienced, while understanding compassion and sensitivity are not mutually exclusive to a moral free market of competitive economic principles. However, there is a bottom line. Ignoring it invites fiscal irresponsibility and more unkept or delayed promises for our neediest citizens.

Remembering what was previously said and promised, is neither a 'personal attack' nor blame, but acceptance of responsibility for what must be done. If a lawmaker, a legislative body, a cabinet official or a Governor, makes a promise to teachers, Native Hawaiians, union members, environmentalists, small business, or special education children and their parents, we must keep our promises to each and every one.

We won't gamble with our economic future; we'll work and invest for it. Hawaii is blessed with a preponderance of able, creative, skilled, qualified, individuals—our greatest resource.

We have allowed too many residents to leave, punishing their risk-taking and taxing their success. We need to release their creative energy and provide incentives for merit and accomplishment.

Our legislative agenda for 2001 is a simple pyramid based on three compelling points:

(1) Immediate and measurable economic improvement for all starting with the long overdue elimination of the cruel taxation of food, health care and rents—a Republican proposal for 40 years, stalled till now, but supported overwhelmingly by the public we serve. We advocate more income remaining with families and businesses earning it, and oppose tax and fee increases. The economy has not "turned around" for everyone in Hawaii, and continuing layoffs, bankruptcies and foreclosures, give grim testimony that we must change our economic climate. We specified budget cut items that are duplicative, wasteful, and non-productive to end the spiral of escalating non-priority costs allowing us to spend money for basic human needs;

(2) autonomy for our public schools and teachers through our 10-point, effective, action initiative, with local, elected, policy control, textbooks for EVERY student, prompt elimination of the embarassing $630 million needed facility maintenance and repairs— as priortized by the schools themselves— recognition, compensation, continuing education and tuition assistance for classroom teachers; speedy, creative, resolution of the Felix v. Cayetano special education mandate with recoupment of federal funds while separating medical from educational application, and, finally,

(3) a fair, fiscally responsible, workable, civil service collective bargaining law that does not place existing employees and retirees at risk of losing what was promised and reasonably relied upon, but one that will recognize affordability, Neighbor Island independence, non-statutory benefits, and managerial flexibility for future employees. We are pleased to continue to support Governor Cayetano on this issue.

There will be additional individual measures we will author, cosponsor, and support.

Among them: legislation to guarantee true Native Hawaiian sovereignty while ending government dependency; increasing the age of consent to protect Hawaii's young women; a victims' rights package endorsed by statewide law enforcement; an automatic ballot recount procedure; greater autonomy for Hawaii's four counties; an elected Attorney General; implementation of the Legislative Auditor's fiscal and management recommendations; abolition of regulations that strangle small business and investment, true privatization, enpowerment of all our people through "sunshine" enforcement, and options such as initiative, referendum, recall, and unicameralism. The public deserves full debate on these proposals, regardless of politics. We will insure it will occur.

We are cognizent that the next biennial budget will prove challenging, but, like every single Mom, every family, and every small business, we must learn to prioritize wisely. $50,000,000 for a government fish tank, $25,000,000 for a government art warehouse, millions more for a new government golf course and narrowly selected tax subsidies, are not the wisest use of hard-earned taxable wages. Previously arbitrated pay raises are on the front burner and need resolution. We support greater compensation, merit incentives, and authority for teachers where possible, but let us not forget the role parents play as teachers, so that a reduced tax burden, more take home pay, direct involvement in the choices and educational options for their own children, is also a priority.

Does this sound ambitious? It is. Unattainable? It's not. Could it be done? Definitely. Let's stop dumbing down Hawaii. If only a portion is enacted in a timely manner, it is beneficial to Hawaii in the new millennium. But we want it all, and so should the public who has expressed skepticism about our ability and resolve to accomplish anything in recent polls. Why must we continue to talk of "waiting?" Native Hawaiians died waiting for their homestead; teachers retired waiting for respect, and special needs keiki became adults aged beyond school waiting for government to do what is legally required and what is morally right.

Can three members of a 25-member legislative body influence the outcome? ABSOLUTELY! But we humbly seek support of the public statewide. I repeat, we in the current Minority, are optimistic and will make personal sacrifices to prove the skeptics wrong. Our problems in Hawaii remain lack of leadership and political will, not money. This year we can begin to reverse that by producing bipartisan results.The public doesn't want Democrat or Republican laws; it wants—and deserves—the best laws.

We would like to see the hard issues on the table at the beginning of the Session, not at the end; the Senate must focus on basic needs, not divert its attention to other personal or emotional issues, and open discussions on Hawaii's problems with all 25 Senators, not closed door factional meetings of a few.

Everyone will be looking at us—as they should— not as Democrats or Republicans, but as their elected representatives. We know they will look at us with even greater scrutiny.

Taxpayers expect, and deserve, our respect and full commitment to a Hawaii that emphasizes success, not just survival. We must earn their respect and trust. We cannot, must not, will not disappoint our neighbors any longer. Accountability is not just for teachers, or public employees; it is for all of us here.

We in this Chamber must never forget who sent us here, who pays for us, whose money we spend, and whose lives we affect by what we do— or don't do. We owe them our very best and must deliver.

We pledge to focus on the next generation, not the next election; long term solutions, not short term "feel good" fixes. We can achieve greatness, not because it is politically advantageous, but because it is just.

Let us begin our work today.


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