The governor’s action plan for Hawaii

Hawaii Briefcase

On December 1, 2014, David Ige was sworn in as Hawaii’s eighth governor. “As I prepare to take over the reigns of your government, I ask each of you to join me in the process of governing. I ask you to find your voice and use it to not only choose your elected officials but to shape the issues that will shape our lives. I ask you to help me with the heavy lifting that I cannot do alone,” he said in his inauguration speech. “Join me in dreaming the dreams, setting the path and doing the hard work necessary for the sake of all of us in Hawaii. And so I say to you, my friends, I look forward to working with all of you—to make good things happen.”

Ige released his Action Plan, “Engineering Hawaii’s Future” (a nod to Ige’s electrical engineering background) as a gubernatorial candidate. He promised to be a collaborative, accountable, and transparent governor. “We will spend public funds thoughtfully and without waste to avoid raising taxes,” he stated. “We will make state government more efficient, especially in the procurement of goods and services and the hiring of personnel.”

Now that Ige is Hawaii’s governor for the next four years, I’d like to take a closer look at his plan. “Engineering Hawaii’s Future” outlines 11 issues, with both action plans and Ige’s track record: budget, economy, education, health care, seniors, environment, energy, agriculture, affordable housing and homelessness, county partnerships, and open government.

Though Ige doesn’t state how he will fund these programs, let’s consider how these plans will affect Hawaii’s government spending and government size. Will the government’s agenda lead to more spending and higher taxes, or less spending and lower taxes? Will the governor’s agenda lead to more bureaucracy and regulations, or consolidated services and the elimination of duplicate and ineffective programs? Here is a summary of some of Ige’s action items and possible impact on government:

No change in government spending, no change in government size:
* Budget. Action items: submit a balanced budget; collect back taxes. Note: I hope that any increase in tax collections will be used to pay for unfunded liabilities, rather than more government programs.
* County Partnerships. Action items: eliminate duplication of effort; and share State resources.
* Open Government. Action items: hold weekly press conferences; hold at least 4 community meetings a year; ensure Board of Education meetings are held after the school day; and support interactive video teleconferencing.

More government spending, no change in government size:
* Economy. Action items: offer incentives and facilitate risk/venture capital for strategic growth industries (information technology, clean energy, health care, and local agriculture); increase commercial airline flights; approve an international airport in Kona; and encourage more corporate conferences and conventions.
* Health Care. Action items: support patient-centered medical homes and community outreach teams; and expand student loan forgiveness programs for medical graduates who work in under-served areas.

More government spending, some increase in government size:
* Seniors. Action items: ensure that Medicaid and Kupuna Care recipients receive equivalent care; support training for caregivers; establish Aging and Disability Resource Centers in each county; and coordinate acute medical care with long-term care.
* Environment. Action items: mitigate risk from natural and man-made hazards, develop sustainable economic growth solutions, and address climate change through the Pacific-Asia Institute for Resilience and Sustainability; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; increase funding on invasive species control, including increased baggage and cargo inspection; and fund watershed maintenance.
* Energy. Action items: more funding for the Hawaii State Energy Office to develop the clean energy industry; modernize the electrical grid, determine the proper mix of fuels at affordable cost, and reduce fossil fuel use in ground transportation; staff the Public Utilities Commission; invest in technology that increases the allowable amount of distributed generation and power sharing between customers and rooftop solar systems; and create programs and incentives to increase clean energy production. Note: where does government’s responsibility end and Hawaiian Electric’s responsibility begin? And how will the sale of Hawaiian Electric to NextEra Energy affect Hawaii?
* Agriculture. Action items: increase local food production from 10% to 20% and identify agricultural, livestock, and nursery lands for irrigation and infrastructure planning; provide more low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers; identify and preserve up to 200,000 acres of primate agricultural land for local food production; establish agricultural parks for small family farms; increase cargo inspections to prevent the introduction of invasive species; ensure funding for state pesticide officers; and support federal GMO labeling laws.
* Affordable Housing and Homelessness. Action items: use State funds to encourage private development of affordable housing (through the Rental Housing Trust Fund); expedite planning and construction approvals; upgrade and increase public housing, managed by qualified nonprofit and private companies; fund the Housing First initiative; and pay for return travel costs for homeless persons from out-of-state.

More government spending, large increase in government size:
* Education. Action items: increase the weighted student formula spending at the school level from 58% to 75% to empower schools; task the Department of Education to implement early education; and reward effective principals. Note: how will we pay for an extra year of education? Is early education the responsibility of parents or government?

Is anything missing from Ige’s action plan? What do you think the governor’s priorities should be? Are there any State programs that you think could be cut entirely, or merged with other existing programs?

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