Lingle sees blue
economic skies
in 2 years

But the governor says improvement
relies on legislative compliance

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Gov. Linda Lingle predicted a major improvement in the state economy in two years if the Legislature makes the changes she has requested.

"You will see the economy turn around in a very big way in the next two years," Lingle told a combined meeting of four Hilo-area Rotary clubs.

She also said she is working to remove restrictions on businesses while maintaining the health and safety of workers.

Lingle said she has reduced businesses' fees to the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs by $1 million.

Her proposed increase in the standard deduction on state income taxes would eliminate the need for 18,000 tax returns and simplify 44,000 others, she said. It would also leave $20 million a year in the pockets of some of the state's poorest people, which will go into consumer spending, she said.

"You know they won't use it for a trip to Europe," she said.

In another speech to the Hawaii County Council yesterday, Lingle said she is working to give counties more control over their finances and other matters, a philosophy called "home rule."

She proposes to end the system in which pay increases for county workers in all counties must be uniform and are controlled by the state. For example, the state controls how much the counties pay police, yet the state has no police of its own, she said.

Reacting later, Mayor Harry Kim said the proposal would allow poor counties like the Big Island to pay less but would also open up pressure on officials not to do so.

"The pros (for such a change) at this point, I think, outweigh the negatives," he said.

Lingle said she also wants to end "unfunded mandates," requirements by the state for the counties to do certain work, but with no funds to help them do it.

One example, Kim said, is a recent state decision that Hawaii County must take over maintenance of 900 miles of "roads in limbo," which the state and county did not want.

Lingle renewed her support for creating local school boards and urged "fair funding" for charter schools.

Truitt White, whose Waters of Life charter school the state tried to put out of business last year until a court intervened, called Lingle's comment "extraordinarily encouraging."

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