Some Republicans and Democrats stand out as best, but when we tried to ID the worst, business leaders were reluctant to name names
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Though some business leaders are happy there was no GET increase or other new mandates that would raise the cost of business, one lobbyist was sarcastic. Business should be thankful to the Legislature for not raising taxes, he wonders, for not adding insult to injury?
For a while during the 2010 session, a broad tax increase seemed possible. Key lawmakers called in representatives of major business groups – banking, insurance and others – and presented them with a choice: Either the Legislature would increase the GET or raise targeted taxes that many businesses pay in lieu of the GET. One observer calls it little more than a threat.
“The recent actions (by several legislators) to bring in literally hundreds of business people and threaten them one at a time with business-killing tax increases and new taxes was bizarre,” the observer says. “It reminded me of the scenes from ‘The Departed’ when Jack Nicholson was going through the inventory of his own gang members in order to find the rat.”
Many national interest groups, from business lobbies to environmental organizations, issue “scorecards” that grade members of Congress on how their votes align with each group’s interests. Most local groups avoid this approach, but there is a scorecard from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which generally advocates for less government.
Its 2010 scorecard, “The Freedom Test,” is based on six issues: taxes, business climate, spending, individual liberty, special funds, and scope of government.
In the House, the top six scorers were all six Republicans in the chamber, with the top three being Lynn Finnegan (score of 56 percent), Barbara Marumoto and Kimberly Pine (both with 54 percent). The highest-scoring Democrat was Tom Brower (27 percent). Five Democrats shared the lowest score of 2 percent: Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Marilyn Lee, Sylvia Luke, Hermina Morita and Mark Nakashima.
In the Senate, top scorers were Republicans Sam Slom (98 percent) and Fred Hemmings (78 percent), and Democrat David Ige (24 percent). Ten Democrats shared the low score of 5 percent, including 2010 Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.
The full report is at http://bit.ly/99FEAr
Another National Slam at Hawaii’s Business Climate
Photo: Wes Funai
Several national rankings by major U.S. media, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazines, have criticized Hawaii’s business climate. The latest comes from cable network CNBC, which in July listed Hawaii as third worst in its survey of America’s top states for business in 2010. “But at least it’s Hawaii,” the survey wryly notes.
Ranked below Hawaii were Nevada and West Virginia. The top state was Texas, followed by Virginia and Colorado. The complete report is available at tinyurl.com/273kff4.
This story was based on interviews and an e-mail questionnaire with business lobbyists, business groups and other business advocates. The questions were:
1. Over the past few years, what in your opinion has been the most significant action (or actions) taken by the Legislature to improve the business climate in Hawaii?
2. During the same time frame, what in your opinion has been the most significant action taken by the Legislature that harms or hinders the business climate in Hawaii?
3. Outside commentators have often remarked that Hawaii has a remarkably “unfriendly” climate for business. Is this reputation warranted?
4. The job of a legislator is, by definition, one of compromise. Still, decisions must be made. Can you name three to five legislators who you think on balance usually make good decisions for the business and economic health of the state?
5. Can you name three to five legislators who more often than not make decisions that – whatever their value might be to specific constituencies – are not good for the business and economic health of the state?
6. Overall, do you think the political vitality of Hawaii, as expressed by the Legislature, is healthy or unhealthy?
7. When you have an issue or concern that needs legislative attention, who is most likely to listen to you? Who is least likely?
8. Will you, on the record, list the three legislators who best meet the interests of you or your organization and three who do least well meeting the needs of you or your organization?
The longest answer we received to the final part of question 8 was “No.”
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