2019 Opening Day Speech by House Minority Leader Gene Ward
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Aloha mai kākou, aloha!
Mr. Speaker, Governor Ige, Lt. Governor Green, Chief Justice Recktenwald, former Governors Abercrombie, Ariyoshi, Waihe‘e, Cayetano, and Lingle; Department Heads, Generals and Flag Officers, County Councilmembers, Diplomatic Corps members, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen and especially the good people of Hawai‘i:
On behalf of the House Minority, I have the honor of saying "welcome" to all of you and extending a special shout out to our new members, and especially to our new Caucus Member, Representative Val Okimoto from Mililani. Congratulations to you all!
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of my remarks today is to tell you how much we on this side of the aisle love this State and will serve diligently as your Loyal Opposition.
Today, we pledge we will do all we can to better the lives of the people of Hawai‘i – but especially the forgotten, ordinary citizen that Frank Fasi used to call "The Small Guy."
But what do I mean about being the "Loyal Opposition?" According to Webster's Dictionary, "loyal" means:
1. "A strong feeling of support or allegiance" or,
2. "Faithfulness to commitments or obligations"
Mr. Speaker, we will be all of these things. We will be faithful and committed to the needs of the people of Hawai‘i, and to the agenda that you set out as the Majority – but we ask that your agenda conform to the generally accepted principals of free markets, free people void of government shackles, and greater prosperity for all the people of Hawai‘i.
Now, what does "opposition" mean in being in your "Loyal Opposition?" Again, according to Mr. Webster, "opposition" means:
1. "Resistance or dissent, expressed in action or argument" or,
2. "A group of adversaries or competitors, especially a political party or athletic team"
And this is the way democracy works: it is adversarial, but we are your faithful opponents (repeat, faithful opponents.)
Said differently, we help "iron sharpen iron" in this Chamber, which I like to call the Marketplace of Ideas.
As the Loyal Opposition, we will be playing both offense and defense throughout this Session. As a former quarterback, playing offense was always the most fun.
Our offensive plan is our Minority Legislative Package entitled: Calling all Kama‘āina. It's about our kids and how we are losing them to the mainland.
The centerpiece to our package is a call for our kama‘āina to come home. We will do this by incentivizing our keiki's return to the islands if they graduated from a local high school and return to Hawai‘i with a bachelor's degree or higher.
For too long, we have been exporting our youth and the brains of the next generation. This program will lure them home with a no-down-payment option to buy a home or condo that will be guaranteed by a newly created "REIT Revolving Fund."
Yes, it's about time these multi-billion-dollar corporations pay their fair share. (The program works like the GI Bill).
In addition to "Kama‘āina Come Home," we have a "Kama‘āina Education" and a "Kama‘āina Health" component.
These components focus on vocational training and apprenticeship programs attaching students to businesses, the same way they do in Switzerland, and the way that Goodyear Tires is now training Campbell High School students to become auto repairmen.
The point is, Mr. Speaker, not everyone has to go to college, but we have offered little alternatives and this one will help to fill the gap.
I would like to thank the Representative from ‘Ewa Beach, Bob McDermott, for the idea and the Honorary Counsel of Switzerland, Ms. Theres Desai, for visiting us at our Caucus retreat to explain the successes of the Swiss model, where 60% of high school graduates go into vocational training and apprenticeships with Swiss businesses.
Time prevents me from providing more details about our offensive game plan and legislative package, but please be on the lookout for a rent-to-own home buying program as well as a General Excise Tax exemption on food, medical services, and feminine hygiene products.
We have other offensive moves too numerous to mention, Mr. Speaker, but you can count on us to support an increase in the minimum wage – but it should be reasonable (repeat, reasonable).
Mr. Speaker, we also enthusiastically support your Finance Chair's zero-based budgeting proposal. And, we will certainly support the emergency recovery needs of Kaua‘i and the Big Island, to name just a few. But, Mr. Speaker, we will also be playing defense this Session, as is customary for the Loyal Opposition.
This means that we will do all we can to pass good legislation, but we also do all we can to block and kill bad legislation. Essentially, this means we will fight with dignity and decorum.
We will oppose "gut and replace" moves by this body. As usual, we will oppose raising taxes and fees, and we will likely put up a fight to stave off what appears to be a socialist juggernaut rolling our way in terms of free medical services and free tuition for all.
Another example is that most of us are against recreational marijuana and see it as sapping the vitality out of our youth.
These are just a few of the issues in our playing defense as the Loyal Opposition, but let me now turn to an additional identity marker of being the Loyal Opposition.
Our Minority Caucus has five members – your Majority Caucus has forty-six. However, these numbers alone don't tell the whole story.
The math goes something like this: we are a population of about 1.5 million in Hawai‘i, with about two- thirds on your side of the aisle, and about one-third on ours. (On average, we receive between twenty and forty percent of the votes in contested elections, so let's say one-third of Hawai‘i's population are not Majority voters.)
This means, Mr. Speaker, that our five members speak for one-third of the people of Hawai‘i, or 500,000 people. This is no small feat and a responsibility we five take seriously.
But don't get us wrong, we love and will represent all 1.5 million people whether they are on your side of the aisle or ours. But, I would ask that you please respect the 500,000 conservatives, or those leaning conservative, who are on our side of the aisle.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, our Nation and our State are hungry for inspiration and civility—not harangue or the politics of personal destruction.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to end my remarks by citing the meeting you and I had in your office on December 3, 2018.
You and I vowed to treat each other with respect and dignity as a symbol of how the Minority and Majority should get along, in a spirit of cooperation and bipartisan harmony.
I am grateful that we will be held to a higher standard, but this does not mean that we will not scrap on this floor. We will do what so many leaders of this body have done in the past: after our floor fights, we proceed to dinner or drinks as friends.
We are State Representatives first, partisans second.
Our caucus of five loves this State; your caucus of forty-six loves this State. All of our behavior should reflect that love and respect for one another from this day forward.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, your Minority is ready to do business. Please lead the way, and remember your Loyal Opposition is behind you.
Mahalo and aloha!