Every year at about this time, my administration and I evaluate what we’ve accomplished over the past year and look forward to the work that has yet to be done.
I have spent the last three years listening to stakeholders in every sector and laying the groundwork for a more prosperous Hawai‘i. To date, our efforts have focused on:
Building a strong foundation:
Hawai‘i is in the best financial shape it has been in years. Our financial house is in order. We are putting money into the Rainy Day Fund and public employee retirees’ state pension obligations. Hawai‘i has earned a better bond rating to help the state save more than $61 million in interest payments in 2015 and $59 million in 2016.
We fulfilled our pledge to install air conditioning in 1,000 classrooms, ensuring positive learning environments for not only current students, but for generations of Hawai‘i keiki for years to come.
Major modernization efforts are underway in nearly every state department. We are working to significantly improve efficiency and transparency with the goal of restoring public faith in government.
Preserving Hawai‘i for Future Generations:
Our environment is one of Hawai‘i’s greatest assets. It’s what drives our visitor industry and economy. Preservation of this natural resource through sustainable stewardship is our only way forward.
In 2016, we launched the Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative which aims to protect 30 percent of priority watersheds by 2030, effectively manage 30 percent of nearshore ocean waters by 2030, implement an interagency biosecurity plan by 2027 and of course – achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
Building a New Economy:
Our goal is to create high-wage jobs so that future generations can call Hawai‘i home. To do that, we are changing the dynamics of our economy by building an Innovation Economy – leveraging our existing strengths in education with robotics and STEM achievement. We’re seeing historically low unemployment numbers, but our challenge is not just creating jobs – it is creating quality, higher paying jobs.
We are also working to address the needs of Hawai‘i’s growing population, setting a housing production target of 10,000 new units by 2020. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start.
We have made available $208 million for affordable housing financing, more than double what was previously allocated.
In addition, we are looking for ways to reduce the barriers to increase housing. Since we took office, about 5,300 units have been produced – 40 percent of them affordable – and more units are in the pipeline. Homelessness is down by nine percent statewide, and we’re taking new steps to maintain access to and safety in our public spaces.
Positioning Hawai‘i as a Global Leader:
Hawai‘i is the first state in the nation to pledge to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. In addition – I was the first governor in the country to sign legislation to implement the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, despite the president’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the agreement.
What we do in the next 5 years will affect the next 50. We’ve set the foundation. We must keep the momentum going.