HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – When the 2012 legislative session opens Wednesday state lawmakers will focus on creating jobs, improving Hawaii's business climate, and avoiding passage of new laws that would slow the state's economic recovery.
"You know I think the theme for us this year in the Senate is jobs, jobs and jobs," said Senate President Shan Tsutsui.
According to Tsutsui the Senate will propose spending as much as $500 million on repair and maintenance at existing state facilities including schools and state hospitals.
"It'll put people back to work. Based on a DBEDT (Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism) multiplier we assume you create eight new jobs for every $1 million in construction spending. That's roughly 4,000 jobs for the state," Tsutsui said.
Tsutsui said the state can afford to spend on construction thanks to the it's recent $1.3 billion bond sale and a projection from the state Council on Revenues which expects an 11.5% increase in revenue this (2012) fiscal year.
"I'm a little concerned, but not as concerned as in the past," House Speaker Calvin Say told Hawaii News Now.
Say hopes lawmakers will be able to foster steady economic growth. That, among other things, means no new taxes.
"Let's not put any more burden on the consumer or the general public and business," Say said.
"We as a house and Senate would have to work out compromises in regards to making it easier for businesses to survive and sustain itself and to make it easier in the permitting process of state projects or private projects … making it easier for state projects in the area of procurement and maybe considering granting exemptions on the procurement side - the purchasing side," Say added.
The one non-fiscal item likely to get lots of attention, and perhaps generate controversy, is the proposed deal to settle the ceded lands dispute. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs would drop its lawsuit against the state seeking compensation for ceded lands. In return the state would give OHA 25 prime acres in Kakaako valued by the state at $200 million.
"The legislature is going to have an opportunity to vet that proposal and we'll see what happens," Tsutsui said.
Legalized gambling is a familiar topic you will not hear much about. Say told us the House will listen to gambling proposals, but only if they come from the Senate. Tsutsui says the Senate is unlikely to pass a gambling bill to the House this year.