Abercrombie inherited mess, showing leadership

The Maui News publisher used his bully pulpit (“Pathetic excuse for leadership,” March 31) to criticize our new governor with no substantive or thoughtful insights to elevate the discussion. The publisher even went as far as wishing Linda Lingle were back as governor, when it was Lingle who got us into the mess we’re in and leaving it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fix.

Under Lingle, the state defunded our children’s education, furloughed our workers, created an immense backlog of much-needed repair and maintenance to our infrastructure, crippled our agricultural inspection system and much more. Furthermore, Lingle delayed state tax refunds, leaving $200 million that the state owed under her administration for this administration to pay. Abercrombie is trying to fix these problems, but it will take time.

The state is facing some serious challenges. Some of them include delayed public services, closed courtrooms throughout the state and delayed court cases, and the shutdown of prison rehabilitation programs due to staff shortages. The budget plan that Abercrombie put forward will not only work toward restoring some of these critical programs but also toward the change we all want to see in Hawaii. The governor is asking Hawaii to commit ourselves to a budget plan that will create jobs, invest in ourselves and move Hawaii in a new direction. For more on his plan and what’s being done so far, go to the website hawaii.gov/ gov/

Abercrombie is taking measured, sensible and reasonable action. He’s already made some tough choices, including cutting social services programs because it relied on federal funding that ended under the Lingle administration.

Already, Abercrombie has instructed all departments to identify the most broken parts of their agencies, to develop new working habits and to implement new policies making the best use of the state’s limited resources. Some of the examples of the state doing more with less include:

* Partnerships with community groups and organizations to develop methods to combat invasive insects and diseases, including those attacking Hawaii’s coffee and bee industries.

* Ending outsourcing contracts in the Health and Human Services departments, saving the state millions of dollars and putting these extra responsibilities on state employees.

* Ending furloughs for employees paid for by federal and special funds, thus providing more services for the public.

Abercrombie is showing leadership. He has laid out his plan, and now he’ll work with the state Legislature on other proposals put forward. That’s how the legislative process works, which the publisher seems not to understand. It’s easy to criticize and blame others, but that does not help the people of Hawaii. The choice in solving Hawaii’s fiscal challenges does not come down to merely increasing the general excise tax or cutting government. It’s clear that neither of those two choices alone solve our state problems in the short or long term.

* Lance Holter is chairman of the Maui Democratic Party and lives in Paia.

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