HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Seven months after delivering his first State of the State address, Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday provided an update on how the state is doing under his New Day in Hawaii leadership plan.
When he took office last December, the governor was afraid that Hawaii was a canoe on the brink of capsizing. But since then, he says the state has overcome a $214 million deficit and is entering the new fiscal year in the black.
"We stabilized the financial situation by making prudent use of the resources we had and made tough decisions with a constant eye on the future," he said.
Abercrombie says the state has gone through a detailed process of examining government activities in order to operate more efficiently, while minimizing the negative impact on public services.
However, he warned of looming challenges, such as the state's unfunded liabilities and soaring healthcare costs.
"Our unfunded liability in the employee retirement fund is $8 billion...$8 billion. The government medical benefits debt, deficit, the liability is $14 billion," Abercrombie said. "Our per capita debt is the third highest in the nation and this fact is relentlessly eroding our credit worthiness."
The governor outlined his upcoming priorities:
(1) Create jobs and grow a new, sustainable economy
(2) Invest in the education, skills and well-being of people, beginning with Hawaii's youngest children
(3) Transform state government into an efficient enterprise through reorganization, and by following a financial plan to pay down debts and manage cash flow.
"I was very pleased to hear these very practical, realistic goals," Rep. Marcus Oshiro, state House finance chair (D), said. "I think it's important to reinvest in our people again. Education has always been a priority of this administration as well as the Legislature."
"There are some rather ambitious plans as we can see, but some stark realities that we have to deal with," Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, state Senate majority leader (D), said. "So we're looking forward to taping up and getting right down there with him in the weeds and see what we come up with."
Meanwhile, Rep. Gene Ward described the governor's status report as "long on rhetoric and short on specifics."
"His statement today didn't even mention our small businesses or entrepreneurs who are risking everything every day to keep our economy moving and provide jobs for our people," Ward, state House minority leader (R), said. "Mr. Abercrombie states he ended the year with a positive fiscal balance, but he doesn't mention that he did this by raiding the Hurricane Relief and Rainy Days funds."