After the surreal nightmare of Sept. 11, Congress and the president began laying the groundwork to protect and rebuild the national economy. A nonpartisan effort of the same magnitude for Hawaii is under way.
Isle economy needs help
Our state is woefully tied to a single industry-tourism. Hawaii could be negatively affected more than any other area in the union-with the exception of New York and the District of Columbia. We in Hawaii need to pray for the best-and be prepared for the worst.
The Council of Revenues will immediately survey leading tourist and retail industry indicators for impact on revenue and their plans for future acquisitions and expenditures. The precipitous short-term drop-and also possibly long-term effects-of a decline in the tourist industry could result in huge revenue losses to the state.
The governor and legislative leadership are calling for a special session of the Legislature to deal with the potential crisis. We will not be myopic and tied to "business as usual." The governor will be waiving the landing fees at all Hawaii airports to make our destination user-friendly for airlines. To help Hawaii-based airlines, we must consider waiving the general excise tax they pay as corporations for a reasonable amount of time.
We must expedite already budgeted Capital Improvement Projects to stimulate the building/construction industry to pump money into the building and trade sector. Laws must be changed to allow the governor to cut red tape. To help all people, we must consider eliminating the 4 percent excise tax on food and medical services. This is progressive.
We will have the Hawaii Tourism Authority revamp its marketing and advertising programs to accommodate the crisis. For instance, this is a chance to increase Japanese arrivals to offset losses from other areas. We must also meet with industry leaders to ascertain what type of assistance is needed for hotel/ground transportation sectors.
The Legislature must also consider painful budget cuts in a nonpartisan manner. Loss of tourist revenues, and costs of economic stimulus programs could drain hundred of millions from the state budget.
We may have to take precautions such as immediately reducing the workforce through attrition, revamping civil service laws to provide flexibility to manage human resources, consulting labor leaders to identify ways to deal with the current circumstances and exam- ining non-essential purchases of services, grants-in-aid and other dispensable services. The governor and legislative leaders are devoted to preserving assistance to the truly needy.
We also must rewrite or eliminate civil service laws that tie the governor's hands from efficient deployment of government workers.
It is easy to be a leader in times of peace and prosperity. In times like these, true leaders must stand tall. Governor Cayetano and legislative leaders of all political persuasions will put aside differences. We are all Americans and citizens of Hawaii.
Out of this dark storm, our nation and Hawaii will emerge stronger than ever. The sun will come up on a better day in Hawaii.
Fred Hemmings is a Republican state senator
from District 25 (Kailua-Waimanalo).