UPDATED 2/27/12 9:45 a.m.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this Community Voice submission was sent in error, Rep. Ward recently told me. It contained material from an older version of the Republican caucus’ package which had already been voted down by the caucus. The earlier article included an erroneous statement that the Republican caucus introduced a bill to require licensing for web designers. The caucus did not include the bill in the caucus package.

Families across our islands are deeply troubled because their financial situations have worsened or barely improved since the recession ended.

They ask vital questions such as: When will we find work again? Can we cope with the higher cost of living? Can the State fund essential services?

The House Republican Caucus shares those concerns. We represent more than a quarter million constituents, along with everyone who wants a viable alternative to the single-party, opaque policies that created a $25,000 government debt for every man, woman and child in the Aloha State.

To bring about a better day for Hawaii, we propose a four-step Recovery Program for 2012 that stabilizes jobs, spurs economic growth, improves accountability and transparency in state government, reduces the cost of living and doing business, and toughens cybercrime laws.

Republicans recognize that the private sector creates jobs. Government can assist, however, by creating a healthy climate supporting growth. Here is what we propose:

  • Offering an incentive credit that encourages businesses to hire people receiving unemployment benefits by allowing a tax offset equaling the cost of those benefits.
  • Creating a set-aside and preference for veteran-owned businesses so they get a fair shot at State contracts, just like locally-owned companies.
  • Promoting “green” jobs through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. This would allow homeowners and businesses to save money by installing renewable energy systems and paying for them through county property tax assessments.

Hawaii residents deserve an open government where finances are clear and easy to access. That’s why we propose:

  • An “open books policy” – including an online balance sheet updated monthly – detailing State revenues and expenditures.
  • Requiring that every piece of legislation includes a “price tag” so elected officials and the public know what a law would cost before it is enacted.
  • A “sunset” review of all special funds – places where money is squirreled away – so they receive proper attention during the annual State budgeting process.

The high cost of living and doing business in Hawaii is limiting our State’s potential and causing hardships for families. Therefore, we propose:

  • Requiring two-thirds approval by the Legislature before imposing tax or fee increases.
  • Reducing medical costs and supporting healthy lifestyles by encouraging the Department of Health to expand its preventable disease awareness efforts.
  • Modifying the ethanol requirement to include other biofuels, thus lessening costs for residents and visitors.

Cybercrime is going viral, with startling increases in computer-perpetrated fraud, scams, identity theft, cyber-bullying and character assassination. To counter these technically sophisticated criminals, we want to help victims by:

  • Strengthening computer fraud laws and penalties for unauthorized access to computers.
  • Asking Internet service providers to retain records for several years so law enforcement can obtain evidence and prosecute cybercriminals.

During the 2012 legislative session, the Republican Caucus looks forward to partnering with the people of Hawaii on this four-step Recovery Program. Together, we can bring about a brighter future for the Aloha State.

About the author: Rep. Gene Ward is the House Minority Leader in the Hawaii Legislature. He represents Kalama Valley and Hawaii Kai.