Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Enough Populism, How About Some Real Planning

By Rep. Kirk Caldwell
Majority Leader
District 24 - Manoa

Recently, the Governor’s senior policy advisor, Linda Smith, published a viewpoint piece that contradicts itself, seems to directly tag the legislature with shortcomings that originate in the executive branch, and rings of an appeal to populism over intellectual honesty. I cannot let it go un-countered.

For example, in the most basic area of tax and spend, the Governor's senior policy advisor says the legislature should have spent millions of more tax dollars AND provided greater tax relief. This from a governor who, when she entered office, was railing against state spending and what she described as fiscal irresponsibility. Ms. Smith suddenly seems less concerned with managing the purse strings than she is with making a headline. That is not a new and better politics. It's hypocrisy.

The Governor's senior policy advisor also calls for more from the legislature in the area of agricultural land reform. By that I presume she means ensuring ag-zoned lands are used for island sustainability, be it in food production or the nascent ag-to-energy business.

This is a critical area. It crosses the responsibility of at least four different state departments, and it raises very complex issues. Pulling together a comprehensive plan among those departments is the Governor’s responsibility. It begs for real planning by the administration, not Monday morning quarterbacking by the Governor's spokesperson.

Now, Ms. Smith, you've made your complaint. Where is the Governor’s coherent plan with a stamp of approval from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and the Public Utilities Commission? And let us not forget that the Tax Department and the Department of Budget and Finance are also involved, for they all too frequently provide testimony that weakens the proposals of the Governor’s other department heads. Rather than blame the legislature for the Governor’s own planning inadequacies, please do something to address these concerns. They are real, need to be addressed immediately, on an ongoing basis by the State’s top executive, the Governor.

Ms. Smith also asks for the legislature to "improve the management of state" agencies. Yet she decries work done by the State Senate to ensure the best management capabilities at the top of State government through the process of advice and consent. Again, you can blame the legislature or you can do a better job of selecting your management team.

On a more personal level, after listening to the Governor’s inaugural address prior to the start of the session in which she asked that the Legislature work with her, I heeded her call and scheduled an appointment with Ms. Smith to talk about the Governor’s package for the upcoming legislative session. I shared with her and with the Director of Finance what I thought the House’s focus would be, with the desire for more collaboration. Ms. Smith, in turn, explained that the Governor had not yet formulated a package, that the push had been on the Governor’s reelection and her inauguration. The request to work together proved hollow.

There is a growing pattern in all this. Governor Lingle is increasingly opting for a style of politics where she takes a minimum of risks, makes few comprehensive proposals and then blames everyone else for the lack of progress.

Governor Lingle had some good proposals this past legislative session, and we worked with her administration on them. A good example is the Innovation package. We always will look for ways to work with the Governor, and we expect the same from the Governor’s office.

But the fact is that no one in the State government has more political power than Governor Lingle. No one is even close. And she has it every day, 24/7, twelve months a year, not just for a legislative session. Let's see some real planning, not more weathervane politics.

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