Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Cayetano considers
Legislature recall

The session would enable
lawmakers to deal with the
effects of the fall-off
in tourist travel

By Richard Borreca

In the face of a severe economic recession, the Cayetano administration is considering calling the legislature back into session, expanding state construction projects and asking the hotel and travel industry to increase tourist promotions.

Gov. Ben Cayetano this morning spoke to reporters before the first in a round of closed-door meetings of bankers, business leaders, legislators and union officials.

Cayetano said he is asking for the opinions of state business, union and political leaders as the state deals with a dramatic downturn in the tourism industry in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

"This is a time that will test everyone's mettle," Cayetano said.

Cayetano said the meeting today will be the first in a week-long series of meetings to come up with a plan.

He would not say if the state should cut its general operating budget, but he said he would be talking to the state's political leaders and the county mayors.

Earlier GOP chairwoman Linda Lingle called on Cayetano to go to Washington to testify about "the devastating economic and social effects the collapse of America's national airline industry would have on Hawaii."

Kim Murakawa, governor's spokeswoman, said Cayetano would send testimony to a House hearing today.

It was unknown if the Senate committee would take testimony tomorrow.

She said the governor could not get to Washington in time for the House hearing and that he has "basically so much work to be done here" with back-to-back meetings on the economy.

"I commend the governor for calling a meeting to get everyone together," Lingle said, "But we need to go further."

Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Kailua) is urging not only the legislature to go into special session, but an emergency meeting of the state Council on Revenues to consider lowering the estimates of how much tax money Hawaii will collect.

To cut expenses, Hemmings says the state should consider ways to cut the work force through attrition and cuts in grants for state programs.

Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) said the state should cut the general excise tax from 4 to 2 percent to help local businesses.

"We have to work on this together, we have to indicate there is a problem and that we are going to deal with it," Slom said.

But Lowell Kalapa, director of the private Hawaii Tax Foundation, warned that helping local businesses will do nothing if tourists cannot come here because airlines are cutting back flights.

"You are not going to stimulate the economy if you don't have people flying in and out of Hawaii," Kalapa said.

"Unless we can make it more attractive to come here, we don't have a chance," he said.

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