Security and tourism
factor in state’s
wartime budget

By Richard Borreca

A war will "change a lot of things," Gov. Linda Lingle warns as her administration and the Legislature start to prepare a wartime state budget.

Lingle said yesterday she was still hoping that the nation would not go to war with Iraq, but conceded there was "some likelihood" that war would come.

"My focus has been on the budget," Lingle told reporters in an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol.

"We have to make sure that we have cut all unnecessary spending," she said.

But, she added, a war will cause the state to change its planning for the next year.

"It will change some of the dreams for the coming year, some of the projects and tax proposals," she said.

Lingle announced the state would continue to keep its security level at blue, or "moderate," because she had been assured yesterday during her conference call with Tom Ridge, homeland security secretary, that there was no specific threat to Hawaii, although there were general worries about an increased level of activity within terrorist cells across the world.

Lingle did warn, however, that if the nation goes to war and the state's alert level is raised, it would affect both tourism and cause the state to spend more money to put 24-hour security at public buildings and facilities.

"If we took on a lot more expenses, something would have to give," she said.

Legislative leaders are also concerned about the economic impact of a war.

Senate President Robert Bunda said the state needs to "brace itself for a war."

He added that although he had hoped diplomacy could have avoided a war, with the increased "military intelligence and the kind of people we are dealing with in Iraq, the decision to have war is probably appropriate."

House Speaker Calvin Say said the House is readying a package of economic support measures while the state waits for the economic fallout.

Say wants the state to beef up tourism promotion, eliminate landing fees for airlines if they keep up their flights, extend unemployment benefits and health-care coverage, and increase security for harbors, airports and utilities.

Lingle sought to put an optimistic note in the budget talks, saying that Hawaii has the "greatest visitor industry in the world."

"It is important that we have a strong, firm foundation and those things don't go away," Lingle said.

"We will get through this budget session," she said.

However, the governor said she was concerned about a labor-sponsored bill moving through the Legislature that would require someone buying a business to retain half of the employees.

The measure had been introduced last year at the request of Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union after a hotel in Waikiki was sold and the new owner dismissed most of the workers.

Lingle told reporters yesterday she considered it "a job-destroying bill."

"It says to anyone who wants to come into this state, 'You are not going to be able to make the business decisions to have a healthy company,'" she said.

"I want the Legislature to look at it in a broader sense. We need to make fundamental changes in the structure of the relationship between government and business," Lingle said.

She added, "We need not to create new laws that are going to hamper job creation."

State of Hawaii
Office of the Governor

E-mail to City Desk


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