Saturday, March 13, 2010

We Need a Shibai Tax

I just read the article in yesterday's Star Bulletin, re the feuding between Governor Lingle and the legislature over budget cuts. Each is accusing the other of "shibai."

Shibai was originally a Japanese word meaning a theatrical performance. In Hawaii, it's come to mean any display or hypocrisy; in practice, it's pretty much interchangeable with the word "bullshit."

The legislature is accusing Lingle o
f shibai for, among other things, withholding our tax refunds until next year in order to balance the budget until she's safely out of office. Lingle is accusing the legislature of shibai for making budget cuts it can't legally make: "For instance, Lingle said the House took out budgeted money from her office to fund required vacation payouts for workers who will leave the Governor's Office with her in December. It also removed $100,000 in transition funds from the governor's budget.

''This is not possible; it is shibai,' Lingle complained."

I think both sides are guilty as charged. But the real losers aren't Lingle or the legislators. They're us.

The state gets to keep our tax refunds until next year? Do we at least get interest while they're using our money?

And we have to pay former Lingle Administration members for their vacations after they're out of office? That really grates, personally. A few years ago, when I left the University of Hawaii, I was told I wouldn't get paid for my accumulated vacation and sick leave unless, at some future date, I was employed again by the state of Hawaii. I think the legislature should immediately pass a bill making the same true for all state employees, including Lingle's patronage employees.

And I think they should pass another law, making it a crime to commit shibai while in public office, with fines of $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the severity of the offense.

With such a law in place, we'd solve our budget deficit in no time.

New Rules for Green Homes

I have a new article out in the Big Island Weekly, re the freshly-enacted "International Energy Conservation Code of the County of Hawaii." The code, which requires insulation and other energy-saving measures in new structures and in major rehabilitations of old structures, is well-meaning and should save energy, but will add a fair amount to the cost of each home, spell bad news for some existing plantation-era homes, and just doesn't always make sense for our climate....