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Gov. Ige: ‘State of the State of Hawai‘i is Sound’

January 22, 2019, 10:55 AM HST
* Updated January 23, 7:48 AM
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Gov. David Ige delivered his vision for the future of Hawai‘i during his State of the State address to the 30th State Legislature Joint Session at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.

He shared his proposals for early childhood education, affordable housing and the Transit Accommodations Tax, among other topics.

For the entire State of the State address, click here.

Transcript highlights from the speech (unedited):

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THE FUTURE

About a minute past midnight on January 1, 2019, Alekah Obra Garcia was born to Clarissa and Johnson Garcia of Kona—the first baby of the new year for the state of Hawaii.

In 2037, when she and her classmates graduate from high school, some of us will be long gone.

Perhaps one of your grandchildren will be among the Class of 2037.

How will they view the decisions we make today?

How will they grade the schools and education we provided for them?

How will they assess the job and career opportunities that will be available to them?

What will they say about the condition in which we left our ocean, beaches and rain forests?

How will they view their past and their children’s future?

Will they look back with reverence the way we do at our parents’ generation, or will they look back with disappointment and regret?

Too often, when we talk about the future we speak in macro-economic terms. But for me, the future is personal.

In many ways, it has to be—if we want to make good and wise decisions.

The future has a name and it is the name of a son or daughter; grandson or granddaughter.

But whether you have children or not, I know many of you feel the same way about Hawai‘i.

The future is personal because it is about home.

We choose one path over another, believing it will lead to a better, more secure, more nurturing Hawai‘i.

We make choices for Alekah’s sake; We make choices for our children’s sake.

Fortunately, we do so at a time when our foundation is strong.

Hawai‘i is once again ranked the healthiest state in the nation.

That’s due in part because our healthcare coverage is among the broadest and most enduring.

Our unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country.

Our visitor industry is moving toward another record setting year, and both individual personal income and the state’s gross domestic product have been steadily growing.

For four years, we have worked hard to put the state on sound financial footing by building our reserves and by paying down our unfunded liabilities, including those to our employee pension and health benefit systems.

We now have the highest bond rating in the state’s history, resulting in lower interest rates when we need to borrow money.

The state of the State of Hawaii is sound.

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A CHANGING WORLD

I am mindful that the world around us has changed since we began this journey four years ago.

Indeed, it has dramatically changed since I delivered my second inaugural address just a few weeks ago.

In my remarks, I talked about how we are no longer limited by our geographic isolation, freed by the wonders of technology.

But that’s also a double-edged sword.

The very thing that makes us more connected with the rest of the world, also makes us more vulnerable to its slings and arrows, including what happens in our nation’s capital.

More than ever, we need to take control and shape our own destiny through education and innovation.

And we need to protect those things which mean the most to us—our natural resources, our way of life, our values, and our children’s future.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Together, we have done much in the last four years:

• In 2015, we were the first state to set a 100 percent renewable energy standard,
the most aggressive clean energy goal in the country.
• In 2016, we were the first in the nation to enroll firearms owners into a centralized
information system.
• In 2017, we were the first state to enact legislation that aligns with portions of the
Paris Accord.
• In 2018, we were the first state to ban pesticides containing chlor-pyrifos to
protect our children’s health, and the first in the world to ban certain sunscreens
to protect our environment.

GOALS

The road ahead remains clear and so do the reasons why we need to press on with the progress we’ve made over the last four years:

• In transforming our schools with a new education blueprint that is school and community based;
• In reshaping our economy using technology to drive innovation;
• In addressing homelessness in a compassionate way; and
• In short circuiting the underlying cause of homelessness by building more affordable homes.

As a state, we have always been “outward” looking in our values, goals and actions. We have always put others first.

In today’s “me-centered” world, that is what I am most proud of as your governor.

That is the gift that we pass on to little Alekah Garcia—that compassionate spirit that I believe resides in all of us: the spirit of aloha!

Concern for our children and the future of our island community is one of the most
important ways we show our compassion for others.

In 2023, Alekah will be ready for preschool. But will a preschool be available and ready
for her?

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EDUCATION

First and foremost, we must create a universal, statewide high-quality public preschool system that will give every child in Hawaii a head-start on learning.

Ultimately, we will need more than 300 public pre-K classrooms.

Clearly, this is a long-term goal.

But we don’t have to wait until we have funding for all of it.

We can start to fill this significant gap in our education system by being smart about how we use existing space.

But I don’t want to just add pre-kindergarten classes. I want us to do much more.

I am proposing to the Department of Education that we look at our elementary schools in a whole different light…

HOMELESSNESS

On an island where land is scarce and the cost of living high, providing affordable homes for our families has been one of the most challenging aspects of caring and looking out for each other.

Widespread homelessness across the state is a symptom of how steep that challenge
is.

I don’t have to tell you it is a complicated one. And one that will take a “village” to solve.

But more than any other place in this country, Hawaii intimately understands the village concept, because it is embedded in our values of ohana and aloha.

With the help of the Legislature, our congressional delegation, the counties, federal agencies, business and community service organizations, we have made significant strides in addressing homelessness in Hawaii.

Together, we have reduced our homeless population for two consecutive years, for a total reduction of 18 percent.

This includes decreases in every county, as well as decreases in key homeless sub-groups, such as families, children and veterans…

I strongly believe that our response to homelessness must address both immediate concerns and its underlying cause: the lack of adequate affordable housing.

That’s why this year’s budget includes $315 million for housing over the next two years.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

This legislation will be critical to unlocking the potential for thousands of new affordable housing units to be built on state lands on all islands.

The state will retain ownership of the land under these condos and determine the terms of resale if the owners decide to sell at a later date.

In this way, we will be able to keep the units affordable, plan growth, create jobs, and make the most of unused state lands.

We can turn a no-win situation into a win-win…

PRESERVING THE LAND & SUSTAINABILITY

Our future requires that over time – we, as a state, acquire and preserve more and more land – either as state land or in the hands of partners like the Trust for Public Lands and the Nature Conservancy. If we want green spaces… if we want to grow our own food… if we want places for recreation… if we want clean, fresh water… if we want the environment that has been so central to Hawai‘i’s life… we need to have special lands in public hands…

In addition to the preservation of important conservation and agricultural lands, we have established strong guidelines to:

• Protect our watershed forests,
• Better manage our oceans,
• Strengthen invasive species prevention through our bio-security plan,
• Double our local food production, and
• Achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Our budget includes $3.9 million over two years for Sustainable Hawaii initiatives, to support our biosecurity plan, watershed protection and our Agricultural Loan Revolving Fund…

Hawaii was designated one of the United Nation’s first Local 2030 sustainability hubs—
the first and only such forum in the Pacific…

In the last 10 years, Hawaiian Electric Companies have reduced fossil fuel use to generate electricity by 26 percent—that’s 48 million fewer gallons of imported oil a year.

The companies have also pioneered technology to integrate more renewable energy into the electrical grid, and delegations from around the world are coming to Hawaii to learn from our experience.

AGRICULTURE

In agriculture, we are entering a new age of innovation, one that will bring new jobs and opportunities and decrease our reliance on imported foods.

The future of agriculture relies on producing crops more efficiently and with less impact on the environment.

Farmers are constructing cutting-edge greenhouses, using automated production systems, and analyzing data to increase crop yields.

These modern practices will require new skills and a workforce grounded in science- and math-related education…

HUMAN RESOURCES

Just as the nurturing of our natural environment is critical to the future of these islands, so, too, is the nurturing of those who, together, make up our human resource, including those who are incarcerated.

There are some who hold fast to the old notion of crime and punishment and scoff at the concept of second chances.

But correctional facilities today need to be more than just secure holding cells.

They need to be places where an individual can take stock of his or her life and seek a second chance at become a contributing member of society…

Concern for others—whether they are homeless, incarcerated, disadvantaged, our children, or the community at large—that is the hallmark of who we are.

LIVING WAGE

Concern for others is why we are submitting legislation to bring our minimum wage closer to a real “living wage.”

Concern for others also underlies the reason why we work so hard to provide economic opportunities for all to realize their dreams, whatever they may be.

But to translate those concerns into meaningful action takes resources.

That’s why we must also be cognizant of the needs of the counties…

DISASTER MITIGATION & RECOVERY

In 2018, mother nature threw a lot our way: historic volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and floods. And yet, I find that we, as a people, are amazingly resilient and resourceful.

We should all applaud those on Hawai‘i Island who faced devastating volcanic eruptions and others on Kauai and Oahu who were buffeted by damaging hurricanes and floods and who refused to be defeated by those events.

We will work with the Legislature to continue our support of those families affected, as they put their lives back on track.

FRAMEWORK FOR FUTURE

Finally, we have spent the last four years implementing frameworks that will help guide us along a continuum that will extend far beyond the next four years:

• Our blueprint for education,
• Our clean energy portfolio, and
• Our sustainability roadmap.

The major initiatives that I’ve highlighted this morning—on public preschool education, affordable leasehold condominiums and the TAT adjustment–are built upon these and other frameworks.

But to realize our goals, it will take more than just this administration, more than government, more than the private sector, or community service and nonprofit organizations.

It will take all of us.

In my inaugural address, I talked about the need to work together.

Little did I expect that our leaders in Washington would underscore my point by shutting down the federal government.

That, my friends, is what gridlock looks like. Tragically, it has been devastating for the many federal workers caught in the middle, and increasingly for the general public.

I began my remarks this morning with the notion that the future is personal.

Leadership is also personal. And it has a name and it is Us.

We have a duty and responsibility to do our jobs and do them in partnership with each other.

That is the least those folks up there in the gallery—the people we all work for—expect.

But I know we can do so much more—if we work together.

And it begins with me. And it begins with you.

That’s why we have been meeting with the Senate and the House—to see if we can establish a common ground from which both houses can better shape a budget that best serves all the people of Hawaii.

After four years in this office, I know what I am asking is not an easy task. It never has been.

But it becomes easier, if we remember that little girl who was born in Kona in the very early morning hours of January 1.

She’s the reasons we do what we do. She is the real source of our strength, our determination and our commitment to Hawaii.

She is the one who will carry on the values that were passed on to us from our parents:

• Reverence for our kupuna,
• Love for family,
• Respect for each other, and
• Love for the aina and this place we call home.

We are here to protect and nurture her. In turn, she enriches our lives.

We have much to teach her and she has much to teach us.

I hope and pray that one of the most important things that we instill in her is empathy and compassion for others—

• Empathy for those who are homeless even while she sleeps safe and warm in her own bed;

• Compassion for those who go hungry even when she is generously nursed and nurtured;

• Compassion for those who cannot make ends meet even if she thrives with a career that meets all of her needs; and

• Empathy for those who find themselves without a country and face a wall that is far more daunting than any physical one we could ever build.

Empathy and compassion are no strangers to those raised in these islands or to those who embrace our shared values.

We do not often speak of them by those names, but rather by the one word we hold above all others: aloha.

Alekah Obra Garcia is our future and we welcome her with loving open arms.

We have a job to do to prepare these islands for her, so let’s get started—shall we?

Thank you and aloha.

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