Governor calls for shared sacrifice - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Governor calls for shared sacrifice

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By Jim Mendoza - bio | email 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "The truth is that our canoe, which is our beloved Hawaii, could capsize," Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in his inaugural State of the State address.

He outlined his plan to balance a state budget that faces an $800 million shortfall through fiscal 2013.

"Debate which merely goes through the motions or rhetoric for the sake of a safe harbor political agenda has expired. Everyone must be prepared to contribute," he said.

Abercrombie proposes repealing state tax deductions for state taxes, saying it's long overdue.

He also wants to treat pension income like all other income for tax purposes. There would be some exemptions.

"Those who have pensions that may be $50,000 to $75,000 will not be taxed And those at $75,000 and above will be the threshold. But that's a discussion and debate we'll have," House Speaker Calvin Say said.

The governor wants to end the current practice of state funded reimbursements for federal Medicare Part B benefits for Hawaii government workers -- a benefit he also enjoys.

"I did not earn this benefit and I cannot justify asking taxpayers public or private to pay for it," he said.

"Obviously, on our part there would be grave concern if applied now because we have people out there who are in their 80s, who are on fixed incomes, who rely on this reimbursement," Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director Randy Perreira said.

Abercrombie said the amount of money the state spends to market Hawaii is disproportionate to the amount needed for Hawaii's infrastructure. He wants to reallocate funds that go to the Hawaii Tourism Authority to pay for government services.  

Reaction from HTA was swift.

"We will be asking that our budget, fully funded through the collection of the transient accommodation tax (TAT), remain intact," HTA president and CEO Mike McCartney said in a statement.

The governor also wants to divert capital improvement dollars for Aloha Stadium to other projects.

Republicans said Abercrombie gave unions a pass by not asking them to sacrifice.

"I don't think it went far enough in the direction that we need. And that is reduce severely government spending, government debt," Senate minority leader Sam Slom said.

Abercrombie said the proposals in his package are for consideration and he's wide open for ideas from the legislature and the community.

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