Thursday, September 20, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Gov will call
third special session

State Legislature acting on
economy and eyeing state
funds for deficit fix

By Pat Omandam

THE STATE LEGISLATURE will convene next month an unprecedented third special session in a year, this time to deal with a state economic crisis stemming from last week's terrorists attacks.

Legislature Gov. Ben Cayetano said he will call lawmakers back to work again in the second week of October to approve legislation to use certain state funds to help offset deficits in the state budget and to provide some sort of tax relief to Hawaii residents and businesses.

Those initiatives include possibly lowering the state capital gains tax, which is now at 7.5 percent, as well as using the state's rainy-day fund set aside from part of the nationwide tobacco settlement and the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund to offset deficits in the state budget.

The governor also wants to extend unemployment benefits to those affected by the economy and find ways to encourage Hawaii investors to keep investing in the islands.

And he wants legislative approval to accelerate or fast-track certain capital improvement projects in all four counties to boost their economies.

"This is the time to invest and build," Cayetano said.

Even before the governor's announcement, key lawmakers said discussions were under way to deal with the failing economy.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa) said his staff has already begun reviewing the state budget to see what can be done.

Taniguchi said during the regular session earlier this year, there were many battles over what to do with the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, but for the most part the money remained in the fund. The response may be different now, he said.

"It's there, but it's a matter of what kinds of ideas we can come out with to convince the public, as well as our members, that we can do this," Taniguchi said.

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) said members are open toward doing something to help the economy, and both the majority and minority caucuses have talked about it. The House GOP met yesterday afternoon to discuss the special session; Senate GOP members called for one earlier this week.

Say said lawmakers could not wait 3 1/2 months for the 2002 session to convene, and they needed to respond to the governor's request.

Like the past two special sessions this summer, Say said lawmakers will agree beforehand what legislation will be discussed and then convene the session to approve it. They will also need to work with the business and organized-labor sectors for approval.

That worked well when lawmakers met between June 4 to 8 this year to fix embarrassing clerical errors in the passage of the Judiciary and Office of Hawaiian Affairs budgets discovered after the regular session ended in early May.

A month later, the Legislature met again on July 10 to override Cayetano's veto of an age-of-consent bill -- the first time since statehood that the Legislature overturned a Hawaii governor's veto.

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