From the Office of the Governor
HONOLULU – In his third State of the State address, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today outlined plans to maximize the state’s sound fiscal footing and improving economy by focusing on business innovation, food and energy security, and early childhood education..
“Two years ago, our administration had just taken office amidst an extremely difficult fiscal and economic outlook,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “But as a result of our collaborative efforts, shared sacrifice and judicious administrative action, we have made clear progress and are again looking at a healthy positive balance. Now, we must move from the status quo and provide for future generations of Hawaii.”
To further economic improvement, the Governor has asked Lt. Gov. Shan S. Tsutsui to take a lead role in expediting investment in the state’s economy via construction, repair and maintenance projects and public private ventures. These long-range investments, including capital improvement projects, have already helped to stimulate the island economy and generate local jobs while improving public infrastructure and facilities.
Furthermore, the Governor proposed the creation of the “HI Growth Initiative,” a new state investment program focused on building a vibrant environment for innovation that supports entrepreneurial high-growth businesses and creates high-wage jobs. The program will engage with the private sector to startup and grow creative and innovative companies.
To strengthen the local agriculture industry, he proposed aggressive promotion of state agency purchases of Hawaii agricultural products to provide a consistent and regular market for goods. The administration will also work to increase access to capital for local farmers and ranchers by expanding the state Department of Agriculture’s loan programs.
The Governor also highlighted the potential of minimum wage earners to provide an immediate infusion of dollars into the economy, announcing that he will be proposing a bill to increase the minimum wage by $1.50 to $8.75 beginning in January 2014. “Everyone is worthy of their labor,” he said. “Industry and corporations do not lack for support in these halls. Neither should those who work the hardest for the least return.”
In the area of energy, the Governor proposed embarking on a clear path toward increased use of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as the establishment of the Hawaii Refinery Task Force to serve as a collaboration of government energy industries and utilities to immediately work on short-term and long-term findings and recommendations.
“LNG will reduce energy costs and reduce our carbon footprint because the resource is abundant, available, and the technology exists for us to use it now,” he said. “Our state, our residents, our constituents, our businesses and communities need relief. To do nothing puts everyone in the state at risk.”
Additionally, a new financing mechanism, administered by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, will be developed to help residents, businesses and organizations to take advantage of energy options.
To maintain the state’s current fiscal stability and outlook, the Governor proposed recapitalizing the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund and Rainy Day Fund and, as detailed in the administration’s 2013-2015 fiscal biennium budget presented last month, proposed addressing long-term liabilities by budgeting $100 million starting next fiscal year, with plans to continue to pursue payment in the coming years.
“And then there is the greatest unfunded liability question of all – the failure to address early childhood development and education in Hawaii,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Leaving our keiki unprepared for elementary school puts them at a crippling disadvantage in terms of being able to meet the demands the future will make on them.”
The Governor reaffirmed his commitment to giving keiki the best opportunity for school success and a strong early childhood education program. The administration has included $32.5 million for the Executive Office on Early Learning in the biennium budget for a school readiness program.
The Governor also proposed addressing Hawaii’s aging population.
“As we look to the future, we must never forget where we came from, and to whom we owe our gratitude,” he added, announcing that he will be asking the Legislature to increase the Kupuna Care budget by $4.2 million and make it permanent.
“Those who came before us, sacrificed to help build our state and create the foundation upon which we stand today. By being part of the permanent base for the Department of Health and the Executive Office on Aging, we can allow programs to properly plan and rely upon a steady stream of funding. This should be seen as an investment that will pay immediate dividends as the aging population of Hawaii both grows in numbers and lives longer.”
To read the entire State of the State address, go to: http://governor.hawaii.gov/2013-state-of-the-state/