BY RICHARD BORRECA
‘Just say, No way’
One of my favorite editors used to have this ball cap sporting a variation of the Nike "Just Do It," logo, except his cap read: "Just Don't."
Even if those caps are in limited supply, this may be the year for new Republican Governor Lingle to make it the topping of choice at the Capitol.
Strong signals are coming from her administration that this is not the year to propose new programs that will cost money.
In several speeches, she has stressed that any new money added to the budget will have to either replace old money, or someone will have to figure out a way of getting that new money before tacking new expenses on the budget.
The immediate concern, according to Lingle, is operating the state on a balanced budget without touching the principal in the Hurricane Relief Fund, now estimated at more than $180 million.
Given the billion-dollar deficits that states such as California and New Jersey are claiming, Hawaii's minor imbalance is peanuts, but it comes after eight years of cutbacks in state budgets and two rounds of big public-employee pay raises that will continue to increase the taxpayer's cost of state government.
Lingle, of course, didn't get into this budget debate blindly. She helped set her own conditions by campaigning on a promise not to cut any existing state workers, not to raise taxes and to keep away from the hurricane fund.
Perhaps the best example of how serious the administration is not to stray from the financial "pay your own way" world came last week while Lingle was in Hilo.
She met with a group of World War II veterans. Proud members of Hawaii's "Greatest Generation," the men from the 100th Battalion and 442 Regimental Combat Team were asking Lingle for just a little help.
The men, Americans of Japanese ancestry like U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who had helped forge the modern Hawaii Democratic Party, were looking at a federal proposal for a long-term care hospital for Hawaii veterans to be built in Hilo. The federal government would put up almost all the of the money; the state would only need to come up with $14 million.
Politicians in Hawaii go to bed dreaming that someday they can help such a politically potent group. Lingle, however, while agreeing with every point brought up, told the group "no."
There is just no money now, she said.
The lesson, according to those who heard about the lobbying effort, was obvious: If these deserving old war heroes can't be helped today, what chance do other groups have?
For those considering asking anyway, just remember my old editor's hat.
Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at email@example.com.