New hires will
give tax info

The governor was "surprised"
that her House appointee
owes $120,000 in state liens

The next time Gov. Linda Lingle appoints someone to a board, commission or legislative seat, she wants to be sure that person's taxes are paid.

Lingle said yesterday she will change the procedure to interview candidates for government positions to allow for a search of tax records.

She was reacting to news that her appointment to a vacant seat in the state House, Bev Harbin, has more than $120,000 in state tax liens. Harbin said she is still working to repay the tax money.

Harbin, a businesswoman and small-business advocate, said she had not mentioned the liens, when she was interviewed by the Lingle administration, because she did not consider it to be a problem.

Lingle, however, said she was "first surprised and then disappointed, because (Harbin) was asked the specific question, whether there was anything that could embarrass the administration."

"Obviously, we want to get a good person appointed, and we know that each of us is a reflection on the entire state government," Lingle said during a news conference.

The state does a criminal background check on applicants but does not do a financial background check.

Now, Lingle said, applicants will be asked to provide tax information and permission to allow a check of tax records.

But Harbin said such a procedure would hurt other small-business owners who sometimes risk their own finances to start a business.

"I think it would be a wonderful idea if you don't want anyone who has been in business," Harbin said. "All you would get would be public employees and union members. People in business are risk-takers."

Harbin said she did not believe her financial problems should embarrass the Lingle administration or cause Lingle any disappointment.

"I'm sorry she is disappointed, but it is the Democratic Party that should be embarrassed," Harbin said.

Harbin said she had heard rumors that at least two more state representatives and one state senator would leave the Legislature, and the Democratic Party was trying to influence Lingle's future selections.

No other House or Senate members have given any indication that there are any other possible vacancies in the 76-member Legislature.

Harbin replaced Ken Hiraki, who announced his plan to retire this summer.

Democrats criticized Harbin for joining the party only after Hiraki announced his resignation.

Lingle said Harbin now has a chance to show what she can do during the one year left in her term.

"She has a year now to do a good job for her district and for small businesses across the state, and now I think she has an extra incentive to do that," Lingle said.

The governor said she decided to select Harbin because she "could do the best job of representing small business, which is a part of our community that isn't well represented in our Legislature."

Changes to the state's workers' compensation laws, reductions in unemployment insurance taxes and state tax reductions were some of the issues that Lingle thought Harbin would support.

"Bev would certainly be an advocate of those, and I thought she was a really good pick for both the district and the Legislature overall," Lingle said.

State of Hawaii

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