Education, economy, energy highlight Gov's annual address w/ Richard Borreca Interview
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – "We have started to turn the corner," Governor Neil Abercrombie said while delivering his State of the State address Monday at the State Capitol. Abercrombie said the state's economic outlook has improved to the point where he is proposing new spending in the areas of education, the environment, public health and job creation.
"Thank you especially to our state employees who agreed to labor savings and additional payments for health benefits in order to effectuate this recovery," Abercrombie said early in his address.
The governor did not propose additional wage cuts or new taxes. Instead he outlined ways he would like to spend money the state has realized thanks to improved tax collections and a recent $1.3 billion bond sale.
His proposals include spending $10 million consolidating the state's technology resources under the Office of Information Management and Technology, $5 million preserving and protecting watersheds, $2.9 million enhancing the state's online services and initiating a program he hopes will eventually provide a lap top to every public school student, and $1 million on promoting early childhood education and health initiatives to combat obesity.
Governor Abercrombie's plan includes $1.8 million for the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii to support residents who suffer from kidney related illnesses. It is an expenditure he believes is needed since services previously offered at the now defunct Hawaii Medical Centers are no longer available.
Abercrombie is asking the legislature to make tax credits for television and film production permanent. He will push for legislative approval of a settlement in the state's ceded lands dispute with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. And he says the state must continue to develop renewable energy.
"My administration will continue to look at every option, wind, solar, natural gas, photovoltaic, geothermal, bio-fuels, ocean energy and other technologies," Abercrombie said.
"These projects are just the first step, and in the next few months we will be unveiling a comprehensive roadmap for the state. Beginning on the Big Island of Hawaii, we are going to be building a world leading sustainable economy standing on our people's history of self-sufficiency in both food and energy," he continued.
Creating construction jobs by spending hundreds of millions on infrastructure and repair and maintenance of public facilities is also high on the governor's agenda.
"I was very very much in tune with what the Governor had said," House Speaker Calvin Say told reporters after listening to Abercrombie's address.
Senate President Shan Tsutsui said he believes Abercrombie's plan is affordable.
"The Governor's six year financial plan matched up with some of his proposals that were laid out today," Tsutsui said.
Some republicans caution against getting too excited about the state's improving economy and wonder if we can really afford everything outlined in the governor's speech.
"We can't be loosening up our belt and saying, oh, we made it because even through we are likely going to make it through this year without any severe crisis, we've already scaled back and will need to address these things in the future. Let's not forget that," remarked Republican Representative Gil Riviere.
The State of the State address comes just a few days after Hawaii's public school teachers rejected a six year contract agreed upon by the state and the executive board of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
"Together we are moving forward. And moving forward means leaving behind the drama of the recent past. It is for that reason that I have again requested the Hawaii State Teachers Association to provide us with a (new) proposal as soon as possible," Abercrombie told onlookers.