“Linda Lingle Image”
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Legislature, Lt. Governor Aiona, cabinet members, Justices of the Supreme Court, OHA Chair Haunani Apoliona, Governor Waihee, Congressmen Case, Mayor Arakawa, Mayor Baptiste, Mayor Harris, Mayor Kim, Lt. General Dierker, Lt. General Gregson, Lt. General Campbell, Lt. General Renuart, Rear Admiral Godlewski, Capt. Wiltshire, elected officials, Consul General Rolando Gregorio dean of the Consular Corps and other members of the Consular Corps, distinguished guests, and to the people of Hawai`i… Aloha and good morning.
It is a great privilege to come before you again to reflect for a few minutes on the past, and then to look ahead to the coming year.
It is going to be a year of great opportunity for our state.
It is already a time of hope and optimism among the people of Hawai`i.
It is up to us to convert that hope and optimism into concrete results and to capitalize on the opportunities we see before us.
No one thought my first year in office would be easy, and it wasn’t.
Everyone knew that power sharing after 40 years of one-party rule would require adjustments.
I guess you could say we are all still adjusting.
But, a complete picture of the past year would show areas of common ground, times of respectful give and take and some mutual achievements.
Our first real interaction occurred over my cabinet appointments.
Although most of these people were new to state government, and several had never worked in government at any level, you gave each of them a fair confirmation hearing.
I admit to you now that I was a little concerned when I read an interview quoting a Senate leader saying, “I never heard of any of these people.” The truth is, I hadn’t heard of most of them just a few weeks earlier.
Ten of my 16 cabinet appointees were people I met for the first time when I interviewed them for the job.
But just as I learned through the interview process, and you learned through the confirmation process, this is a superior group of individuals who are doing a great job for the people of Hawai`i.
The Senate unanimously confirmed all my cabinet appointees and I thank you for that, because they enabled me to begin carrying out my vision of a New Beginning for our state.
I consider the formation of the cabinet one of my most important first-year achievements, and I would like all the members to stand and be recognized for a job well done.
Both the House and Senate were an important part of the New Beginning as well.
I am especially proud of how we worked together to rewrite the state procurement law so we now have a contracting system that is open, accessible and devoid of favoritism.
It is no longer a matter of “Who you know,” but “Whether you will do the best job for the people of Hawai`i at the fairest price.”
Progress on our vision for a New Beginning often will occur by passing such a bill during the legislative session, but progress is not limited by our ability to get a new law passed.
Sometimes we make progress by rewriting administrative rules, as we did when we modernized and simplified the animal quarantine laws.
Sometimes we make people’s lives better by changing long-standing but outdated policies, as we did in our new “Going Home Project” which gives hospitalized Medicaid patients the option of transferring their benefits to home-based or community-based settings.
This simple but significant policy change improves the quality of patients’ lives, saves millions of taxpayers dollars, and frees up much-needed bed space in hospitals.
Sometimes progress is achieved in the form of public-private partnerships, such as Hawai`i Prescription Care, which is helping thousands of low-income people obtain medications at no cost to taxpayers.
Sometimes progress means bringing a comprehensive focus to an important issue, as we did by appointing our state’s first tourism liaison.
Marsha Wienert is working effectively with industry leaders, legislators and the community to develop a comprehensive strategy to remain competitive in the years ahead.
At the same time, she is working effectively with her fellow cabinet members to make certain that state parks, airports, harbors and other infrastructure is in place to sustain a healthy visitor industry.
Sometimes progress comes about through appropriate expressions of gratitude and respect for our friends, as we have shown to our nation’s military leaders stationed in Hawai`i.
This mutual respect enabled us to successfully complete the return of Kaho`olawe when many felt successful negotiations were unlikely.
I want to give special thanks to Attorney General Mark Bennett, Admiral Barry McCullough, the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission, and the Hawaiian community for their commitment to resolve the issue of access in a way that maximized safety.
Sometimes an executive order can solve a long-standing problem, as was the case with payments owed to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
We used both an executive order and an appropriations bill to make back payments and resume payments to OHA for certain ceded land revenues we believed had been unfairly withheld.
Sometimes you can improve the quality of life by reviving an old idea that never got implemented, such as the Nimitz Highway Contra-Flow Lane, which Transportation Director Rod Haraga pushed to completion.
Sometimes we make progress through a more creative and aggressive use of federal funds.
The state had previously failed to claim millions of federal Medicaid dollars.
In 2003 Director Lillian Koller took the necessary steps to begin receiving more than $10 million each year in new federal dollars without spending additional state funds.
And sometimes we can make progress by just keeping our promises.
For example, we promised to find money to support youth centers in the Kalihi area after vetoing the use of the Rainy Day Fund.
We made good on that promise by securing federal funds to continue to operate these centers.
Lt. Governor Aiona’s drug summit, which I will speak about later in some detail, so impressed federal officials that they granted $3.6 million dollars for our efforts to help those suffering from both drug addiction and mental illness.
Yes, there is much we can do outside the legislative process.
But there are so many important things that only you legislators can do.
Only you can place important constitutional amendments on the ballot that will reform public education and institutionalize budget integrity.
Only you can adopt a supplemental budget that addresses pressing needs such as repairing and improving state parks and schools, fully funding our state hospitals, and reducing the tax burden on our lowest wage earning residents.
And only you can amend or repeal existing laws that are impeding progress or pass new laws that will help us achieve our goals of a safe, healthy and prosperous state.
It is clear that much has changed since the last legislative session, particularly the economic and budget picture.
The lessons of the past year dramatically demonstrate the importance of fiscal discipline.
It was only a few months ago that we experienced substantially reduced revenue estimates, a large projected deficit and budget restrictions.
Throughout the past year, we worked hard to inspire fiscal discipline and budgetary integrity in order to meet these challenges while maintaining needed services.
My administration’s goal then was to continue providing quality services while balancing the budget without raiding the Hurricane Relief or Rainy Day funds.
We accomplished that goal.
But balanced budgets proposed by the Executive Branch are only half of the fiscal equation.
The State Legislature plays an equally important role in ensuring Hawai`i’s financial integrity.
That is why I propose amending the State Constitution to require the Legislature to enact a balanced budget.
This is no different than the law in 40 other states, and it sends a strong message that government is serious about living within its means.
Let’s work together to pass this important legislation.
The session ahead presents so many opportunities…opportunities to correct past mistakes, devise new solutions to old problems, capitalize on changing circumstances, and the chance to lay down a clear path to a bright future.
I know each of you has ideas on how to make life better for the people of Hawai`i, and I look forward to hearing them.
At this time, I would like to share my priorities for the upcoming session.
The five areas our administration will focus on are: building safe communities, promoting a healthier Hawai`i, preserving our unique environment, maintaining a strong economy, and revamping the public school system.
Public safety is one of the fundamental responsibilities of government.
Safe neighborhoods promote a sense of social well-being and are essential if our state is to flourish.
Our children need to be safe when they are at school. Our kupuna need to be safe when crossing the street.
Your wives and sisters need to be safe walking to their cars late at night.
And visitors need to return home with all the valuables they brought with them on vacation.
Our anti-crime initiatives to build safer communities are three-pronged