Panel touts isleThe House Committee on War Preparedness is recommending waiving state fees for airlines -- amounting to about $6.4 million monthly -- and spending an additional $5 million for marketing the tourism industry if a war with Iraq breaks out.
airline fee waiver
The House plan is to aid the
economy in case of war with Iraq
By Leila Fujimori
The proposal is "to keep planes flying, keep people coming into Hawaii and to keep our economy afloat," Rep. Brian Schatz said.
The 10-member committee of public and private industry representatives has been holding hearings to examine how the state's energy reserves, public safety, military complexes and the economy would be affected by a war with Iraq.
It approved 10 proposals yesterday to help the tourism industry and the state's economy in the event of a war. However, it rejected the airlines' request for a moratorium on state excise taxes collected on fuel and other purchases.
"At a time when the budget is pretty tight and when both the administration and the legislature is cutting major programs from the budget, we didn't think it was prudent to look at this type of recommendation," said Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Pacific Heights-Punchbowl), House vice speaker and chairwoman of the committee.
The airline fees that could be waived include landing fees of about $3 million per month and rent for the use of airport facilities amounting to about $3.4 million a month. The waivers would be contingent on the airlines keeping the same number of seats to the islands.
The recommendations will go to appropriate House committees for consideration.
"We need to make sure this will benefit people in Hawaii and tourists that are in Hawaii, and not just going to the mainland to just help the airlines with their bottom line," said Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua).
The committee also approved proposals to accommodate tourists stranded in Hawaii and to have a delegation of state officials to go to Japan to encourage travel to Hawaii.
They are also asking the U.S. government to waive federal taxes and fees at the airport and have the U.S. Department of Agriculture fund agriculture inspections at Honolulu Airport.
Also at the hearing yesterday, public safety officials assured the committee that Hawaii is prepared in case of war.
"Hawaii's disaster response or emergency response system is prepared for war and any contingency," said Ed Texeira, vice director for the state Civil Defense Division.
But he cautioned that its response teams including police and firemen are thin. "When you count the number of firemen that are out there across the state and what their capabilities are to respond to terrorism, we're getting healthy, day by day," he said. "But it goes back to funding."
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