During remarks at the 2010 Smart Business Hawaii Conference, Governor Linda Lingle outlined initiatives to improve the business climate and help Hawai`i businesses “stay the course” during this period of economic challenges.
Improving Hawai`i’s Business Climate
“As you well know, we’re facing a $1.23 billion shortfall over an 18-month period of time. It’s unprecedented in Hawai`i history,” the Governor told small business owners who gathered at the conference.
“We developed a plan to close that shortfall to $721 million over the last six months of this year and $509 million in FY2011. There are going to be some changes in government in order to accommodate that, but we met our obligation under the constitution to present a budget that was balanced over six years and maintained the best quality services possible in the basic areas that government is responsible for,” Governor Lingle added.
The Governor shared that her first order of business during the upcoming legislative session will be to address the potential significant increase in the Hawai`i unemployment insurance tax.
The Administration worked with the Legislature and business community three years ago to lower the unemployment insurance tax for businesses across the state, saving businesses $151 million.
The unemployment tax is expected to increase this year because of the impact of the economic recession on the state’s economy. With the unemployment rate doubling over the past 18 months, it is necessary that the state replenish and make solvent the unemployment insurance fund. This year, Governor Lingle will propose a plan that will save businesses $497 million over four years by lowering the wage base and by changing the schedule.
Another major focus will be the continuation of the Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative – a collaborative program that will bring energy security and economic security to the state by ending Hawai`i’s over-reliance on oil and coal as a means for electricity and transportation fuels.
In addition to legislative efforts, the Lingle-Aiona Administration is continuing work to improve the quality of life for Hawai`i residents through other projects, including the Capital Improvement Project plan.
“We formed a partnership with labor unions across the state and the four mayors in the county governments to make certain that these projects could get out to bid as quickly as possible. Within one year’s time, we put out over $1.5 billion in bids for construction projects, including $800 million of that already in issued notices to proceed,” the Governor said.
Governor Lingle also discussed other exciting projects on the horizon, including progress the state has made in its outreach efforts with China.
“We’re on the verge of getting our first flight from Beijing to Honolulu,” Governor said to applause from the audience. “I’m very excited about that, and we’re focused on making certain that those flights begin before I leave office.”
In addition to expanding tourism opportunities, the State is working with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to establish wholesale and retail commercial operation for Hawai`i products in Shanghai.
The government of China will be helping with the logistics, advertising, public relations, and distribution of Hawai`i products.
“You will get the kind of assistance you just can’t get on your own going into China and this has us very excited,” the Governor added.
The state is on the verge of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with China’s Ministry of Commerce to establish this pilot project and will welcome a delegation from China this quarter.
The Governor will lead a delegation to China this summer to follow-up on partnerships with the Ministry of Commerce and to attend the “Hawai`i Week” at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.