by former US Rep Charles Djou www.Djou.com
While running for Congress throughout 2010, the top concern I heard voters express was the economy and jobs with government spending and the budget deficit a very close second. These are major issues that demand bold and immediate action.
Hawaii’s unemployment rate continues to linger at more than double its historic average while the national unemployment rate has hovered above 9% for a record two years. Similarly, the looming Federal and State budget deficits threaten the long term fiscal stability of our community.
With these major problems at hand, Hawaii’s elected officials are ready to tackle every issue - except job creation and the deficit. The first major action taken by the Hawaii State Senate was to become the only legislative chamber in the United States to eliminate the invocation. The legislature has confronted issues ranging from decriminalization of marijuana, civil unions, bingo on Hawaiian Homelands and banning the sale of toy guns. Not to be out done in complete irrelevance, the Honolulu City Council recently took up a resolution condemning Rush Limbaugh for making inappropriate comments about Chinese Premier Hu Jin Tao.
While I was running for Congress, I cannot recall a single instance where a voter approached me about the importance of eliminating the invocation in the Legislature. Not one citizen ever spoke to me about the critical need for our legislative bodies to monitor the senseless discussions of mainland shock-jock talk show hosts. But these appear to be the top priorities of Hawaii’s current crop of elected leadership in 2011.
These all may be important issues, but none of these matters taken up thus far by Hawaii’s elected officials will do anything to create any new jobs and will do nothing to close any budget deficit. Wasting time talking about some mainland radio talk show host’s immature comments about a foreign leader is normally just the typical silly behavior one would expect from the Honolulu City Council and Hawaii’s politicians. But with unemployment continuing at record levels, this reflects a genuine lack of understanding by our elected officials about what is important to Hawaii residents.
The Hawaii State Legislature and the Honolulu City Council have an opportunity now to discuss major systemic reform that will put our economy on a path toward job creation and we can discuss major issues to fix our continual problem of government overspending. We should be discussing ways to reform Hawaii’s antiquated civil service system that was designed in and for the 1950s. Our elected officials should examine how to change the current government employee pension system away from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan that virtually every private company has adopted. Rather than continually looking at more and more government, Hawaii’s legislative bodies should instead be taking a careful examination of the raft of unnecessary regulations that permeate Hawaii and Honolulu’s books and over-burden business. We should be looking taking bold steps like eliminating the corporate income tax, deregulating the Hawaii transportation industry and simplifying the income tax structure. Cities and states across the nation have boldly sought to reshape and streamline their operations by engaging in public-private partnerships to run their waste collection systems, street maintenance programs and public facilities such as the zoo. These are real ways that Hawaii can stimulate our economy, spur job creation and confront our budget deficits.
Unfortunately, with one-party rule and domination by a political old-boy network machine, Hawaii is still stuck with an elected government that prefers to play “small ball.” Until we get a wholesale change in who leads our government, all of us in Hawaii will just have to postpose the date for true reform and bold leadership. Instead, we will just have to wait as Hawaii politicians occupy themselves with the finer points of toy gun possession and mainland radio talk shows.