Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Star-Bulletin Poll

Many feel GOP
helped politics

A poll also reveals Hawaii's
voters think unions have
acquired too much power

By Richard Borreca

About a quarter of Hawaii's voters think Republicans added something positive to this year's legislative session, according to a Star-Bulletin/KITV-4 poll.

For the first time since statehood, the state House has had 19 Republicans, more than the one-third vote needed to recall bills to be debated on the floor.

Republicans were able to force dozens of issues to the floor for debate.

The survey showed that almost 25 percent of the state's voters believed that the newly increased GOP numbers were a legislative bonus.

"There was a tremendous amount of difference," said House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo).

Democrats had to be better educated on their positions, and everyone had to be better informed, he said.

But the legislative product was not improved by the added Republicans, according to Say.

"They aren't getting better legislation, but they are calling the Democrats on the carpet," Say said.

Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki), GOP leader, disagreed, saying the increased number of Republicans forced Democrats to deal with issues such as privatization of government services.

Poll chart

"The people who thought the Legislature performed better because of the Republicans were people who were following it closely," Fox said.

When asked about the entire legislative performance, however, voters were not impressed.

When asked if the Legislature exceeded their expectations, only 7 percent said yes, while half said it did not meet expectations, and an additional 14 percent did not know or declined to answer.

"Again, the public is right. We failed to grapple with our broken education system and the high cost of government," Fox said.

The figures, however, disappointed Say, who said the Legislature worked to avoid a tax increase even while providing $300 million extra in public employee pay raises.

"I am just shocked at the expectations. What are their expectations? We didn't raise taxes. I was taken aback," he said.

The poll was taken across the state in the week after the Legislature ended May 3.

A total of 539 likely voters were interviewed by telephone May 5-10 by Market Trends Pacific Inc. for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and KITV-4 News. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.22 percentage points.

In the final week, the Legislature approved a wide-ranging overhaul to the state's civil system and public employee health fund.

Poll chart

The new laws are designed to help the state save money, and it appears that some voters were watching.

The poll shows that about a quarter of the voters think the Legislature is doing an excellent or pretty good job of spending their tax money.

At the same time, another 25 percent said the Legislature did a poor job of minding the checkbook.

"We lived within our means," says Say. He defended the Legislature, noting that the House repeatedly rejected calls to raise taxes or consider gambling to increase revenues.

"The Legislature didn't do what people thought we would do, that is, raise taxes," he said.

To control spending, however, the Legislature had to buck the public employee unions on the health fund and privatization bills.

The public, however, saw the unions as gaining in power. Those who thought the unions had too much power climbed from 40 percent to nearly half between January and May.

During that time the teachers and university faculty went on strike, and the Legislature awarded raises ranging from 11 percent to 16 percent over four years.

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