State of Hawaii

Lawmakers look
to override vetoes

Some want a special session after
Cayetano nixes tax breaks
for construction projects

By Pat Omandam and Crystal Kua

State lawmakers are considering a special session to override some of Gov. Cayetano's bill vetoes, including the Ko Olina resort/aquarium project and tax credits for commercial construction.

"I'm exploring all alternatives," said Colleen Hanabusa, Senate vice president who represents the Waianae community where the Ko Olina project would have been built.

"I have received calls, and I disagree with the governor's reasoning on both the campaign spending and the Ko Olina vetoes," she said.

In vetoing the Ko Olina bill, Cayetano said it did not achieve its intended purpose, did little to ensure additional economic growth and was difficult to administer.

Hanabusa said she will try to talk to members of the Senate and House to get the votes needed for an override. Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Waimanalo) can't wait.

"This year, we think we have an economic package that will help the Hawaiian economy, will help consumers and will help laborers, so let's override these vetoes with a one-day session and make good things happen for our economy," Hemmings said.

Meanwhile, GOP gubernatorial front-runner Linda Lingle complained Cayetano's opposition to the $75 million in tax waivers for the Ko Olina project was a "colossal missed opportunity."

"This would have been an attractive and innovative way to help stimulate economic activity and provide opportunities for people in one of the state's most economically depressed areas," Lingle said in a statement yesterday.

Cayetano responded that the Ko Olina project is a bold idea that could resurface next year if supporters clear up the problems he outlined in his veto message.

He then criticized Lingle for quickly seizing any "politically opportune moment" and said she has to look at the bigger picture.

"Unfortunately, if she wants to be governor of the state, she'd better learn how to analyze bills and analyze the overall impact that it will have on the community," Cayetano said.

Furthermore, the governor said, the commercial construction tax credit bill was one of the most poorly drafted measures he's seen in his 28 years in public office.

One of its biggest problems, he said, was that construction would have to increase by 52 percent for the state to break even from the loss in tax revenue.

"At a time when we are hurting for revenues, it seems to me that before we allow tax credits or tax cuts, we need to make sure that they will generate more revenue than we lose," Cayetano said.

"Otherwise, we're going to be facing some real problems in the future."

Meanwhile, the 19 House Republicans said yesterday they want a special session to revive four bills: the Ko Olina resort, the commercial construction tax credit, campaign finance reform and continued rent relief for airport concessionaires.

"We're in a really terrible economic situation in Hawaii, and he's going after the very bills that are meant to pull us out of this trough and get us back to a growth economy," said Galen Fox (R, Waikiki), House minority leader.

Rep. Lei Ahu Isa (R, Liliha), who recently switched to a Republican from a Democrat, said that as House Economic Development chairwoman, she's especially disappointed with the Ko Olina bill veto.

"My committee and myself tried really hard in all of our power to pass all of these really good economic packages which the governor has vetoed," Ahu Isa said.

House Minority Floor Leader Charles Djou (R, Kaneohe) said the group would consider other vetoed bills for special session override.

"It is extraordinarily ironic that the governor vetoed the Ko Olina bill," Djou said. "He was the one who, after all, pushed the aquarium, building the world-class aquarium in the first place."

Fox said they need Democrats to climb on board and has asked House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) about a special session. Say said earlier this week a special session unlikely but it was up to the 51-member House.

"We haven't talked with leadership or with the House yet about an override," added Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa).

If the Senate were to come back for an override, Bunda said, the of the Ko Olina tax credits would be the one most likely to gain support.

But even then, Bunda cautioned, he wasn't sure it was an issue of statewide concern.

"I haven't had people in my district beating down the doors on it," he said.

An override vote would have to be held July 9 before noon, according to the state Constitution, Senate clerk Paul Kawaguchi said.

Star-Bulletin writer Richard Borreca contributed to this report.

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