Richard Borreca: Legislators’ cost-of-living ideas try to stave off voters’ growing discontent before elections
Welcome to this election year. It soon will be time for us to count the winners and losers. This year, winning may not be what happens to a lot of local office holders.
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Welcome to this election year. It soon will be time for us to count the winners and losers.
This year, winning may not be what happens to a lot of local office holders.
We do know that Hawaii’s registered voters will be winners because for the first time, they will all be mailed a ballot for the primary election (Aug. 8) and the general election (Nov. 3).
All you have to do is read the instructions, pick your candidates and mail it in. As they say at Nike: “Just do it.”
On the other hand, for incumbent politicians, this could be the beginning of a losing season.
Early indications are that as voters look at the bunch in office, their eyes are not lighting up with thoughts of hope and admiration for a job well done.
The omens are all lined up and not in a favorable direction.
A Honolulu Star-Advertiser statewide survey a few months ago showed that more than half (51%) disapprove of the Legislature’s job performance. Another 27% approve, and the rest don’t know. Legislators going in for their two- or four-year work evaluations should feel a tad stressed.
Legislators can’t look for help from on high: Gov. David Ige has marks in the same basement. Just 35% of Hawaii residents said they approve of Ige’s job performance, while 56% said they disapprove.
Unliked and disrespected the Legislature may be, but it is not dumb; it knows how to read a survey and is hoping to give the impression of getting right down to business.
The annual session opened last week without the flourishes and fanfare that usually come with opening day. Instead of parties, lawmakers held hearings.
The pre-session news conference was not, as usual, about foggy and
hardly-ever-realized hopes and dreams — but rather specific plans to act on several longstanding issues.
As the Star-Advertiser’s Kevin Dayton reported, the specifics included “four bills that lawmakers say will provide relief for poor and working families. The plan involves steps such as modestly increasing the state minimum wage and developing 17,000 affordable homes on state land.”
In a sign of at least preliminary cohesion, Ige also said he liked the initial legislative work and was looking forward to working on the details.
No new wheels are being invented in this offering. Changing the state tax code to include refundable state earned income tax credits has been around since Republican Gov. Linda Lingle proposed dropping taxes for those earning minimum wage salaries. She argued it was unconscionable for the state to tax the paltry earnings of such workers, but previous Democratic legislators refused. It still might be fairer to just not tax the poor rather than tax and refund the money.
Still, as House Speaker Scott Saiki worried in his opening speech: “Many people cannot make it in Hawaii. … As a community, we are at best treading water. At worst, we are drowning.”
We will see exactly how thoughtfully and quickly Hawaii’s state government can respond.
Come the results at the end of the session and the mailing of election ballots a few months later, voters will be watching and judging who wins and who loses.