House Minority Leader Aaron Ling Johanson

BY AARON LING JOHANSON – Thank you, Mr. Speaker, distinguished guests, fellow colleagues, and people of the great state of Hawaii.

A special thank you to the many former legislators who have joined us today.  Welcome back to the House…welcome home.

Your presence here today is as special as the mark that each of you left on the institution as well as imprint that you’ve left on Hawaii.

Indeed, your legacy of service has guided us here today and helped contribute to the foundation upon which many of us stand.  It is that legacy that compels us to serve.

We wear many hats in this building and go by many titles, but above all else, we are public servants and here to serve.

That is what the public expects of us and that is what we should expect of ourselves.

All of you returning members share something in common, irrespective of your differences in background, philosophy, and present circumstances.

You all labored to make Hawaii a better place and to improve the lives of all people.

That’s the intrinsic link we all share.

Just as you faced in your time of service, we still face significant issues today.

These include citizen participation in democracy and government, a high cost of living, educational opportunities, and the health of our people.

Hawaii still has the lowest voter turnout in the nation. We are all familiar with the cynicism and apathy that characterizes many of our neighbors, which leads them to remain unengaged in their government.

The call of service requires us to do more…

And responsibility compels us to answer.

Accordingly, the minority caucus seeks to empower the electorate directly through the initiative and referendum process.

Financial experts generally rank us the most costly state in which to live in America.

We all know far too many people living in poverty or barely making enough to survive and one need only look around to see our homelessness problem.

The call of service requires us to do more…

And responsibility compels us to answer.

We advocate lowering the cost of living by linking income tax brackets to the Consumer Price Index to help provide some measure of tax relief to those at the margins of each bracket as they see their dollar buying less while still having to pay the same level of taxes, with essentially less money.

Public education in Hawaii is one of our largest governmental expenditures. It has societal consequences for generations to come.

The call of service requires us to do more…

And responsibility compels us to answer.

We propose greater educational opportunity by ensuring that all five year olds attend kindergarten.

The healthcare system can be a complex web of overlapping pieces and difficult for patients to navigate.

The call of service requires us to do more…

And responsibility compels us to answer.

We support formally establishing by law the Hawaii Wraparound Program to effectively care for at-risk youth.

While this is not an exhaustive list of all the ideas that we will be debating this year, it is a snapshot of our legislative priorities.

We believe that the 2014 Legislative Session affords us a unique opportunity to help engage the people of Hawaii on the important issues of the day.

By pressing for the goals of increasing participation in government, lowering the cost of living, strengthening education, and protecting people, we can improve the quality of life for all who live in Hawaii.

To our esteemed former colleagues – You all labored to make Hawaii a better place and to improve the lives of all of our people and all of us who have that responsibility today must continue to take up that mantle of service.

Mahalo and best wishes for a productive 2014 legislative session.

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