Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

The Politics of “Now” by maliab
March 22, 2011, 5:59 pm
Filed under: Economy, Hawaii Sunshine | Tags: , , , , ,

By Malia Hill

There is a reason that there is generally very little impetus among politicians to make the tough choices for the sake of the long-term good–by the time the “good” comes around, they won’t be there to get the credit.  Long-term thinking doesn’t get far when the next election is a year away.  And most politicians feel (and to be fair to them, they have reason) that voters aren’t going to reward them at the polls for cutting the voters’ favorite entitlements.  Consider what Senator Sam Slom (a striking exception to the above rule) has to say about HB1034, an “emergency” appropriation bill being fast tracked by the Senate at the request of Governor Abercrombie:

This bill originated from the Governor. There was no “emergency” to rush its passage other than the Governor and unions wanted it now.

The bill calls for taxpayers to pay $18 million-plus to the state employee health fund, EUTF, (in addition to another budget appropriation for the EUTF), to offset union medical premium increases because of the Governor’s promise to the labor unions on the day of his inauguration in December, 2010.

This was not the result of collective bargaining—there is currently a collective bargaining contract in effect—it was a political promise by the Governor to increase the taxpayer subsidy for union workers from 50% to 60% of their medical premiums.

Just so we’re all on the same page here, let’s break this down.  Hawaii is in a state of financial meltdown.  The state legislature is passing new taxes left and right and still can’t begin to cover the budget shortfall, which in turn is one of the worst in the country thanks in good part to the unfunded liability from the state pension system and other state employee benefits.  Like health insurance.  The economy isn’t great, and tourism is expected to take a multi-million dollar hit from the tragedy in Japan.  And in the midst of this, the legislature is passing an $18 million bonus to state employees based on the Governor’s electoral pandering.  Essentially, not only do we in the private sector have to pay for our own health insurance premiums, we also have to pick up the tab for the state employees.  This is classic short-term thinking.  Eventually, the house of cards that is the Hawaii economy is going to collapse under the weight of bad governance, but Governor Abercrombie seems to be betting that he’ll be safely retired by then and it will be someone else’s problem.  Like us taxpayers.

(N.B. Senators Slom and Hee were the only ones to vote against HS 1034.)


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