AIEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was billed as an opportunity for Aiea and Pearlridge area residents to directly address the governor, the lieutenant governor, and several other elected officials. but it was the governor who did most of the talking.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie spent much of the town hall meeting at Pearl Ridge Elementary School trying to convince a sometimes skeptical gathering about his plans to reduce the $800 million deficit in the state budget.
One of the proposals is to tax pension income for retirees, which Abercrombie said would generate $114 million a year.
"What I'm asking is, is that we recognize we all have to do a little. We all have to give a little," Abercrombie told the capacity crowd. "We all have to work together so that we can survive. If we don't do it, the pension system itself is in jeopardy of collapsing."
Another concern of the older crowd was Abercrombie's plan to end state reimbursements of Medicare Plan B for retired state workers, which he says would generate $42 million a year.
"We get almost $2,400 a year back," retiree Manny Mattos told the governor. "That's almost nine percent of our income. It won't take that away?" he asked.
"No, I don't think that will be the case," the governor replied.
"I don't want a 'think.' I want a yes or a no," Mattos immediately fired back. "Will it affect me?"
"It will affect me, but it won't affect you," said Abercrombie.
"Are you positive?"
"I'm positive about that."
"You wanna write that down so I can see it?" Mattos said, eliciting laughter from the governor and the crowd.
Other exchanges were not quite as friendly, including one with a woman who wanted Abercrombie to cut more spending, as she said other states have done, before raising taxes.
"Is Hawaii so unique that we cannot do the same?," said Newtown resident Kathy Ebey. "We may just unique ourselves right into bankruptcy. And I'm proud to say I was one of the people who did not vote for you."
A spokesperson for the governor said he's looking for more opportunities to talk and listen to residents in other communities around the state.