Tackling tough issues, a vision for the future

Posted on Feb 4, 2016 in Main

Tackling tough issues, a vision for the future
Excerpts of the 2016 State of the State Address by Governor David Y. Ige
Many and yet one. Strength in diversity. A belief in our common humanity and values handed down from our parents and grandparents. In my State of the State address recently, I described our plan to tackle tough, long-standing issues while still holding to the values that can unite us as a community and guide our decisions. Action on these vital needs is long overdue.

TRUTHFULNESS: ALIGNING VALUES AND ACTION
When we live without truth, our actions fail to pass the test of time. We repeat our mistakes because we have not learned from them. We in government must do a better job of listening to people and giving them a real opportunity to be heard.

Realign values and actions on the Thirty-Meter Telescope – It’s unfortunate that our past and our future have been pitted against each other on the slopes of Mauna Kea. I am committed to realigning our values and actions. I am committed to pursuing this project, and I hope its sponsors stay with us. This time, we will listen carefully to all, reflect seriously on what we have heard and, whatever we do in the end, we will do it the right way.

PUBLIC FUNDS AS A PUBLIC TRUST: MANAGING BETTER, SMARTER
Governing the right way also means taking care of our debts and obligations while managing effectively. This includes:

Better management of public pension and health benefit funds so they are not a burden on future generations of taxpayers – My proposal includes paying 100 percent of the annual required contributions in one lump sum each year, saving up to half a billion dollars over the next 20 years. My supplemental budget request includes paying 100 percent of the annual required contributions rather than 60 percent for the next two fiscal years. If authorized, this will further save more than $300 million in required contributions over the next 20 years.

Modernizing our tax system to increase tax revenues, minimizing delays in tax refunds, and catching tax fraud – Our tax fraud unit identified over $20 million in fraudulent claims last year and so far this year has found another $11 million.

More timely spending of federal monies – Although much more needs to be done, both the state Department of Transportation and the Department of Health have made significant progress toward full use of federal funds.

Saving taxpayer dollars and balancing the state budget When public funds are managed better, the cost of borrowing money decreases.  In a recent $750 million state bond sale — the first for this administration — we saved about $61 million in our debt service requirement.   Because of all of these initiatives, we were able to balance the state budget by last June, even though the state was projected to close the last fiscal year in the red.

WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY

 The future of OCCC and the Kalihi 21st Century initiative – Many people have had strong concerns about the redevelopment of Kaka‘ako — especially when it comes to affordable housing.  Now we have an opportunity to get planning right in Kalihi. Our plan involves moving the O‘ahu Community Correctional Center — severely overcrowded and in disrepair — to Halawa Valley, then developing the land along the rail transit line for affordable housing, commercial development and  jobs, open space for recreation, and more. As part of our Kalihi 21st Century initiative, I am asking a group of community leaders to convene a series of meetings to involve residents from the start and determine what Kalihi wants for its future.

CREATING MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING

 It’s estimated that 66,000 housing units will be needed statewide in the coming years.  The State wants to do its part by working with the private sector to build more affordable homes and rentals. Our plan includes:

 More funding for low-income rentals – This year, because of the great demand, we are seeking $75 million for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to make more money available for low-income rentals.

 Helping provide adequate infrastructure for new housing, such as roads and water systems – We’re proposing to expand the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund by $25 million and $75 million for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to make more money available for low-income rentals.

 Reinvigorating public housing statewide – This includes redeveloping North School Street, Kuhio Park Terrace and Mayor Wright Homes to mixed-use/ mixed-income units.

 Private sector and county initiatives – These will add thousands of additional units, thanks to the  work of the mayors and their respective county councils.

RENOVATING AND REDEFINING PUBLIC HOUSING 

The North School Street redevelopment project will be one of three O‘ahu public housing initiatives to enter into a public-private partnership that allows for a mixed-use/mixed income model. With Mayor Wright Homes, we are in the process of formulating a master development agreement with Hunt Companies that has the potential of adding additional mixed-income units. An agreement with the Michaels Group for Kuhio Park Terrace is also imminent, with the potential for additional affordable units.

Read more in our February issue: http://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FINALFEBRUARYCapitol-Connection-PDF.pdf