FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2002
Contact: Rep. Marcus Oshiro
Phone: (808) 586-8505
As the 2002 legislative session headed toward adjournment this week, House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro lamented his Republican colleagues' lack of fiscal discipline in supporting the Hawaii State Teachers Association's efforts to enact a de facto repeal of last year's landmark Act 88, which reformed the means of funding health care coverage for public employees.
"Since the GOP repeatedly cloaks itself in the mantle of fiscal accountability, it's simply amazing that its members feel no obligation to explain how they would fund the various health care plans of all public employee unions," noted Rep. Oshiro. In a widely publicized audit, the State Auditor estimated that cost, unless checked, would approach $1 billion by 2013.
Rather than deferring, the Legislature last year enacted its widely acclaimed reform, which placed all public employees' health plans under a single employer-union trust. Despite widespread public speculation by Hawaii Republicans that Democrats would wilt under the intense lobbying of public employee unions, it was the GOP that eventually folded; half of all Republican legislators voted against Act 88.
Adopting a new bullying tactic this year, HSTA announced that it would endorse candidates for all legislative districts. The State Senate eventually succumbed to union pressure and passed SB 2961, which would restore the previous status quo by allowing HSTA to establish its own autonomous and taxpayer-funded health care plan. But the bill failed to meet the previously agreed-upon deadline for legislative crossover, and the House refused to consider the measure.
However, most House Republicans joined GOP gubernatorial hopeful Linda Lingle in supporting HSTA's late-hour effort to dismantle Act 88. By last Friday, only one Republican member, Rep. Joe Gomes, publicly favored preserving the integrity of last year's health fund reform.
Rep. Oshiro dismissed Republican efforts as a shameless and cynical attempt to curry favor with the teachers' union, most of whose members "were either unaware or didn't care about the specifics of SB 2961 or its potential fiscal impact on Hawaii taxpayers."
The Majority Leader dismissed the current crop of GOP lawmakers as "do-nothing legislators, whose disingenuous pandering to teachers reveals their inherent philosophical bankruptcy. Aping their mainland counterparts, they merely stake their public positions with platitudes and generalities devoid of substance or detail."
"While feigning a willingness for bipartisan cooperation, House Republicans instead pursued a mercurial path of alternating disengagement and confrontation," noted the Majority Leader. "Whereas Democratic legislators shouldered the burden of finding real solutions to Hawaii's recent challenges, Republicans complained and criticized. The fact that nearly all GOP House members favored attending this year's Lincoln Day party fundraiser, instead of attending to the public's business on the House floor, clearly reflects their current priorities."
"Yet when all is said and done," concluded Rep. Oshiro, "the 21st Legislature will be remembered as one of the most productive in the State's history, in spite of its Minority members, who placed personal ambition ahead of their constituents' best interests."
# # # # #