House Republicans back Say as Speaker, focus on not raising GET

Hawaii Independent Staff

HONOLULU—On Friday, State House Republicans announced that they will be voting to keep Democrat Calvin Say as Speaker of the House. The announcement puts an apparent end to the Kaimuki representative’s fight against a group of 18 Democratic dissidents who had rallied behind Rep. Roy Takumi for House leadership.

The State House Minority Leader, Rep. Gene Ward, said in a statement that Say’s return as Speaker “was the best choice to ensure the State’s long-term fiscal condition improves.”

“We need leadership in place so we can get on with the business of the people of Hawaii,” said Republican Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson.

With the backing of the eight House Republican Caucus members, Republicans expect Say to keep spending down and to organize the House expeditiously.

In October, Say told The Hawaii Independent: “I do not support a General Excise Tax (GET) increase. I feel that such an action would jeopardize the economic recovery, raise the cost of living for residents, and exacerbate the regressive effect of the GET. If additional revenues must be raised, my first preference would be to limit or eliminate tax breaks for special interests.”

Say’s commitment to not raising the GET was a deciding factor for House Republicans.

“The eight of us [House Republicans] have heard directly from our constituents from Oahu to Maui about the importance of not raising the GET, providing favorable pro-small business initiatives that will create jobs, and ensuring improvements are made to State infrastructures,” Ward said. “With Say returning for his seventh term as Speaker, we feel confident these issues will be a top priority this session.”

Say has served as Speaker for the last 12 years.

“The Republican caucus is focused on strengthening and diversifying our local economy.”

“The Republican caucus is focused on strengthening and diversifying our local economy,” Ward added. “Therefore, we are very concerned that the administration and the legislative finance committees maintain fiscal discipline to ensure our residents are not negatively impacted.”

The addition of the eight Republican votes ends a months-long stalemate that saw 25 House Democrats backing Say, including last month’s late commitment by freshman Rep. Linda Ichiyama, against the 18 dissidents. A nominee needs 26 votes to be seated as Speaker.

The group of Democratic dissidents included Rep. Della Au Belatti, Rep. Tom Brower, Rep. Mele Carroll, Rep. Denny Coffman, Rep. Cindy Evans, Rep. Faye Hanohano, Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Rep. Chris Lee, Rep. Sylvia Luke, Rep. Dee Morikawa, Rep. Hermina Morita , Rep. Mark Nakashima, Rep. Scott Nishimoto, Rep. Scott Saiki, Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, Rep. K. Mark Takai, Rep. Roy Takumi, and Rep. Jessica Wooley.

Last month, the Democrats backing Takumi for Speaker sent a letter to Say that stated: “Too often votes are traded for pet projects and positions without regard to a larger policy agenda. We believe that the challenges facing Hawaii are too great to continue this practice. Leadership must focus on resolving the larger challenges, and not just narrow issues that benefit only a few.”

When the 2011 Legislative Session convenes on January 19, committee chair assignments will paint a picture as to how dissident Democrats are punished and how the Republican Caucus might be rewarded.

Correction: the Legislature convenes on January 19, not on the 20th as previously written.

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