HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In his third State of the State address on Monday, Gov. David Ige pointed to homelessness, education and government accountability as the core priorities for his administration in the coming year, but he also warned of a slowing economy that could prompt tough budget decisions.
"While we cannot predict the future, it's clear to me that we are living in very challenging and exciting times. And we face these times standing on solid ground," Ige said, in the first minutes of his speech.
"In many ways, the state of the State of Hawaii is sound and full of possibilities. Having said that, we all know there is still much work to be done. There are families out there that continue to struggle despite the overall state of our economy."
Despite his concerns about state revenues, Ige did make a number of big ticket pledges, and said he plans to phase in increased payments to the pension system, which is underfunded by nearly $4 billion.
He also made a promise to public workers: "I will be planning for fair wage increases for all our public employees," Ige said.
In his speech, Ige focused on these key themes:
- Transforming schools to better prepare children for the future;
- Reshaping Hawaii’s economy to allow for more innovation across industries;
- Building more affordable homes for and addressing homelessness;
- Making government more efficient and effective.
On homelessness, Ige said the state is "making inroads" on getting more people housed, and is focused on finding more people permanent, supportive housing rather than simply moving them into shelters.
The governor also said his administration has reduced homelessness, and has kept nearly 4,200 from becoming homeless.
"Let me be clear about this: We have a crisis and we are working urgently to fix it in a humane and compassionate manner," he said. "That is why my budget proposes $20.9 million each year for rent subsidies, supportive services, outreach services and enforcement."
Throughout his State of the State, Ige also stressed efforts to foster innovation in the islands.
"I strongly believe that the long-term sustainability of our economy must center on innovation," he said. "More importantly, the innovation sector offers the best promise of high-quality, high-wage jobs for our children."
This year's State of the State includes echoes of last year's address, which focused on homelessness and Ige's plans to bolster the state's economy. And his annual address to the state Legislature comes amid mounting concerns about Hawaii's dearth of affordable housing and its homeless crisis.
State Sen. Roz Baker said he was disappointed the governor didn't mention healthcare in his speech, especially given efforts nationally to repeal Obamcare.
House Speaker Joe Souki, who supports a permanent extension of the excise tax surcharge to complete the rail transit project, was pleased with signs of collaboration.
Meanwhile, political analyst Dan Boylan said Ige did "an adequate job" in his address by touching on issues that are important to Hawaii families and laying out his plan for fixing Hawaii's biggest problems.
"I don't think it's any worse than any of the State of the State addresses, but I don't think it's any better either," he said.
And Sam Slom, who was formerly the lone Republican in the state Senate, said Ige's speech was more talk than action.
"The governor mentioned that families are struggling and they are," he said. "What's our plan B? We don't have it. Hawaii is lagging behind other state