Jobs and stability top agenda as legislature convenes - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Jobs and stability top agenda as legislature convenes

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a few lean years marred by budget cuts and furloughs Hawaii state economy is slowly recovering and lawmakers were cautiously optimistic about Hawaii's financial future as they opened the 2012 legislative session Wednesday.

Their goals for the new session include creating jobs, balancing the budget without raising taxes or imposing new taxes, and improving Hawaii's business climate.

During his opening remarks House Speaker Calvin Say said he would like to maintain stability.

"Maintaining stability means no new taxes for state government from residents and businesses. Maintaining stability means no major general fund appropriation increase for the expansion of state programs," Say said.

He told onlookers it is important the legislature focus on maintaining economic recovery and promoting immediate job growth.

Senate president Shan Tsutsui told an audience gathered in the Senate chambers the state can afford to spend $500-million fixing up state facilities. He has said that kind of expenditure would create as many as 4,000 construction jobs.

"Projects would be seen in every single one of our 255 public schools, all 10 University of Hawaii campuses, all of our state hospitals, and provide work for painters, roofers, electricians, electricians, masons, plumbers, and local engineers just to name a few," Tsutsui said.

Another way lawmakers hope to create jobs is to delay a scheduled increase in the contribution employers make to the state's unemployment trust fund.

"We should immediately reduce the continuing job destroying unemployment compensation tax increase now set for March. We acted so swiftly last year in passing civil unions. Can't we do the least for the economy and those that work in our community," said Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom.

Leadership in both the House and the Senate say they will consider granting exemptions to procurement laws if doing so will lower cost, put people to work, and get capital improvement projects started faster.

They will continue to support the visitor industry, development of renewable energy.

"The bill I'm excited about we actually introduced last year. It is on-bill financing. It's in front of the PUC (Public Utilities Commission). It is going to allow home owners to be able to put a PV (photo voltaic) system on their roof and save tons of money and not have to worry about the up-front cost. They'd be able to pay for it on their monthly electric bill over the next 20 years," Senator Mike Gabbard told Hawaii News Now.

Big Island representative Bob Herkes said he hopes the state can relax what he believes are building codes that have become too strict.

"I'm going after the building codes. The building codes are completely out of control. Hurricane resistance? Hawaii island has never been hit by a hurricane, so come on. I want to go back to 1926 building codes. Plantation homes are still standing. I want to put people to work. I want to put people in homes," Herkes said.

"Part of our priorities needs to be about streamline permitting so we can get construction moving, rehabilitation, help with our schools, reconstruction. There's a lot we need to do so we can get people back to work," added Senator Donovan Dela Cruz.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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