[ State of the State Address ]

Gov. Lingle gave her first State of the State address today as Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona looked on. Lingle urged legislators to lower some taxes, reform public schools and fight corruption.

Lingle wants
limited tax cuts

Reforming schools and boosting
the counties’ power also top her list

Full speech text

By Richard Borreca

In her first State of the State speech this morning, Gov. Linda Lingle said she is holding back plans to cut taxes because of Hawaii's weak economy.

But Lingle, Hawaii's first woman governor and the first Republican governor in 40 years, asked lawmakers to cut taxes for the poor.

"Given the fiscal reality we face, the only tax relief I am asking for in this budget is to reduce the income taxes of those who earn the least," said Lingle, speaking before a joint session of the state Legislature.

State of Hawaii

"We do this by increasing the standard deduction with a goal of raising it to 50 percent of the federal standard deduction within three years, and eventually to 100 percent," Lingle explained.

Lingle said her legislative package does not propose "a host of new, expensive programs, across-the-board pay raises for state workers" but aims "to create long-term, fundamental, structural change."

Here are some of Lingle's proposals highlighted in her speech today:

>> Increase the standard tax deduction for low-income residents.

>> Approve a tax credit for construction at Ko Olina.

>> Create a hotline for low-income senior citizens to get free drugs.

>> Establish a 30-percent tax credit for long-term-care insurance purchase.

>> Allow counties to set up a civil service system.

>> Transfer traffic fine revenues to counties.

>> Set mandatory prison sentences for public corruption convictions.

>> Create omnibus procurement legislation that will allow electronic bidding.

On education, Lingle proposed a bold series of changes, including new support for charter schools and removing school principals from public unions.

"Under my plan, charter schools would be free to make their own hiring decisions. The UPW would not have a lock on any jobs, nor would the HGEA or the HSTA.

"Once hired, teachers, secretaries and janitors would be free to form or join a union, but that would be their choice," Lingle said.

She also stuck by her campaign pledge to work to break up the state school system into smaller independent groups.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you do only three things to improve public schools during this legislative session, you should allow the people of Hawaii to decide if they want local school boards, get principals out of the union and fairly fund the charter schools," Lingle said.

"I am proposing that we let the people decide this important issue via a statewide ballot referendum," Lingle said.

"Let's ask the people of Hawaii if they want to amend the constitution to allow local school boards."

Senate President Robert Bunda's proposal for drug testing in public schools drew the praise of Lingle, who is asking Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona to convene a task force "to outline a plan to implement a voluntary drug testing program in our schools that will lead to providing help to those students involved with drugs."

Her support for school decentralization carried over to her plans for the counties, as Lingle said the four counties should be able to set up their own civil service systems.

She also suggested that counties be able to create their own fireworks laws and that traffic fines now kept by the state be given to the counties.

"The counties have waited too long for these funds. It is the fair thing to do," Lingle said.

Lingle had a stern warning in the area of state ethics, saying the state would not tolerate political corruption.

"I will be asking you to send a loud and clear message that any public official who abuses the public's trust can expect harsh and certain consequences, including a mandatory prison sentence," Lingle said.

"Large gifts to public officials, including exclusive golf outings and lavish entertainment, will be presumed attempts to bribe and treated as such," Lingle warned.

Office of the Governor

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