Saturday, January 23, 2021
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Saturday, July 11, 2020
Legislative Session: The good, the bad and the ugly
By Grassroot Institute @ 5:42 PM :: 1498 Views :: Economy, Hawaii State Government, Taxes, COVID-19

The good, the bad and the ugly

From Grassroot Institute, July 10, 2020

Hawaii’s 2020 legislative session adjourned yesterday, and thank goodness for that.

It was a session interrupted in March by the COVID-19 crisis, then reconvened for four hectic weeks in June and July. When the session began in January, we had been prepared to fend off new taxes and budget-busting government projects. Now that it’s over, we can celebrate the lack of any tax increases, but the budget issues remain.

The Legislature’s highest priority upon reconvening was to amend the budget to reflect Hawaii’s post-COVID reality: widespread business closures, massive unemployment, looming budget deficits and evaporating tax revenues. 

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was adamant about belt-tightening and spending cuts. We even created a budget balancing tool to demonstrate how it could be done. 

Our state lawmakers went for a different approach, donning rose-colored glasses and approaching the budget shortfall as a temporary setback. Not only did they use up the entirety of the state’s rainy day fund, they also approved legislation allowing them to breach the state’s legal debt limit. Over the next several years, the state will be able to issue up to $7 billion in general obligation bonds, thereby increasing the state’s liabilities and debt burden that will be borne by Hawaii taxpayers. They also approved salary increases for some public employees.  

Overall, those who had hoped the Legislature would address the economic fallout of the pandemic-inspired state and county lockdowns were disappointed. Very few of the bills considered in the reconvened session attempted to ease the pain of the state’s businesses or unemployed workers. 

One Senate resolution stands as the perfect metaphor for the Legislature’s approach to addressing Hawaii’s current economic woes: SR78, adopted on July 8, pledges to create 100,000 permanent jobs in Hawaii by 2022. How? The resolution doesn’t say. It only asks the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to help by submitting recommendations before the 2021 session. 

If it’s so easy to create jobs, why stop at 100,000? Why not resolve to create 150,000 jobs? Or 200,000?

For the DBEDT employees now searching for ways to help the Legislature meet its goal, may I suggest a little light reading? Please check out the institute’s “Road map to prosperity,” which we released in late May to provide exactly the kinds of recommendations Hawaii needs to get its economy moving again. 

I’m not saying the Legislature’s lack of fiscal restraint means it ignored the effects of the lockdowns entirely. On the contrary, the Senate chose to respond to public dissatisfaction with the lockdowns and the governor’s exercise of emergency powers by … expanding the state’s emergency powers. 

A House bill that had made it to the Senate was gutted and replaced with a proposal that would give the state health director, with the consent of the governor, broad powers to declare public health emergencies, close businesses and schools, mandate quarantines, and do anything else deemed allegedly necessary to address the danger. 

The bill was met with broad public opposition, and hundreds of people submitted testimony opposing it. Nonetheless, our senators approved HB2502, and only the House’s refusal to accept the new version stopped it. This was one of the bright spots of this year’s session.

Another bright spot was a resolution creating a task force to make government operations more cost-effective. True, this was just a small step, but if it leads to laws that will make it easier to engage private contractors or create public-private partnerships, it’s a step in the right direction.

Also deserving praise was the Legislature’s approval of HB285, which, pending approval by the governor, will make it easier for lawmakers and the public to learn the details of police misconduct. More sunlight is always a good approach when it comes to increasing the public’s trust in government, and lawmakers should be commended for their work on this bill.

Despite these bright spots, however, the fact remains that little was done to address Hawaii’s genuinely horrifying economic devastation, and it looks like we’ll have to wait until next year — at the state level, at least — to make any progress.

The good news is that this gives us more time to promote economic freedom as the key to helping Hawaii recover and even excel after the coronavirus lockdowns. I know I am already making up my wish list for the next legislative session.

E hana kakou! (Let's work together!)

Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.




TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

ACA Signups Hawaii


Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Astronomy Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break

DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina


Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Heritage Foundation



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes


Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii


National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Hawaiian

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Save Dillingham Airfield

School Choice in Hawaii

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii