comscore Legislative leaders seem aware of financial reality | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | On Politics

Legislative leaders seem aware of financial reality

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now

Initial indications are that by the time this 27th legislative session ends, you will be wishing for the return of machine politics.

After listening to the opening day speeches and talking to administration officials, it appears that there are three basic tenets to hold this session together.

» We are not going to raise taxes.

» We need lots more money, so let’s get it or at least give out tax credits to investors.

» We can’t be handing out tax credits; the Council on Revenues will kill us.

First, legislative veteran and new Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is against new taxes. She warns about the "pent-up demand" to spend, and instead favors think twice, spend once.

"Despite all these demands and the anticipation of better economic times, I hope, first and foremost, that there will be no new tax burdens … that we will not automatically open the taxpayers’ pocketbooks to every budget request, every new proposal, every new capital improvement project," Kim said.

Second, another legislative veteran, Rep. Joe Souki, is back leading the state House. On Wednesday he ticked off the long-delayed state needs.

"We have the chance now to rebuild what the recession took away," Souki said.

"We must enhance our revenue stream. We must put together a mix of strategies that will generate more state revenues — equitably," Souki said.

To do that, Souki offered up the promised but never adopted tax credits for a movie studio to be built on Maui that may be worth $350 million in new revenue.

Some, however, fear Souki’s drive for tax credits could transform into an equal desire for a tax increase.

Finally, the Council on Revenues earlier this month took an extremely dim view of the state’s tax credits, such as the solar tax credits.

Even though the Abercrombie administration is rushing to amend the credits, the council still said "new administrative rules that may curb the revenue cost of the credit, but the new rules are not expected to have much influence on tax collections before fiscal year 2014."

Some uncertainty in financial planning is always part of the early days in a legislative session, but instead of an argument of whether the glass is half full or half empty, the discussion is more about whether they are looking at a glass or a camel.

Abercrombie, who started off the new fiscal year by announcing that the state was running a $300 million surplus, is now talking about taking a conservative approach to spending.

He is initially urging that the state think about saving as much money as possible to refill the Hurricane Relief Fund and the rainy day savings fund.

If tax credits are disliked and the state’s money should be saved, not spent, will voters wanting more school services, better health care, new roads and new business investment be pleased?

Compounding this is the somewhat tenuous support Souki has attracted for his speakership. On opening day, 18 Democrats voted against Souki, so the Maui Democrat organized with the votes of the seven Republicans. Depending on what enhanced revenue stream he follows, Souki may find his position more or less tenable.

Perhaps Souki’s final promise, to lower state income tax rates, may be the safest course. You may not get a new bridge, but you will pay less for the one you already own.


Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at

Comments have been disabled for this story...

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up