State stands with Kaua‘i ‘ohana

The month began similarly for the islands of  Kaua‘i and  O‘ahu, with a deluge of heavy rains, high winds and flooding. Residents experienced property damage and losses, and roadways such as Kapa‘a Temporary Bypass Road that provide critical links between our communities were suddenly closed for a time.

In periods of extreme weather, it is essential that state government acts decisively to ensure the safety of residents and visitors, and to help families and businesses through not only the period of crisis but its aftermath.

That is why my administration acted quickly on March 3 to authorize a disaster proclamation for both islands.

The proclamation is important because it allows for any necessary and appropriate steps to be carried out immediately, as well as the activation of civil defense and other emergency functions to ensure public health and safety.

Since then, I have signed an additional supplemental disaster proclamation to extend necessary emergency functions for  Kaua‘i and  O‘ahu islands in response to National Weather Service forecasts of continuing periods of heavy rains and potential flooding.

This was the third disaster proclamation issued this year.

The first occurred on  March 2, which authorized the state Department of Transportation to begin emergency highway repair work on Kuhio Highway near Kilauea town in response to a partial collapse of a 15-foot-diameter culvert running beneath the highway.

 The collapse occurred following heavy rains that caused soil erosion.

These emergency repairs are necessary for the safety of all those who rely on this highly-used corridor.

According to the Department of Transportation, an average of 12,000 vehicles passes through the area daily.

I would like to specifically recognize the responsiveness and hard work of our state DOT engineers and road crews, who worked with county officials in mitigating disruption.

 Even as weather conditions persisted, these individuals braved the downpours to ensure that  Kaua‘i’s roadways are restored.

The Kapa’a Temporary Bypass Road was reopened four days ahead of schedule.

Work crews removed a damaged drainage system from beneath the road surface, installed a new 42-inch culvert and have repaved the affected section.  

Residents were reassured they can rely on their state government in times of crisis.

But even before these recent weather conditions, I have been working with  Kaua‘i elected officials to expedite Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) that will address long-term maintenance and safety needs while strengthening the momentum of Hawai‘i’s economic recovery.

These have included CIP funds that go toward highway, bridge and harbor upgrades, as well as safety improvements at various school and state facilities.

For example, I recently released $774,000 for installation of larger culverts and debris-resistant outlets to increase drainage capacity and minimize clogging along Kaumuali‘i Highway.

I recently released $501,400 for the state’s bridge inspection and appraisal program, and additional funds for guardrail and shoulder improvements on Kuhio and Kaumuali‘i Highways and Kuamo‘o Road.

Furthermore, CIP funds are being invested in our state’s critical communications systems and expansion of radio coverage statewide.

These projects provide more than needed upgrades; they are our latest investment in the economy and people of  Kaua‘i as our islands emerge from a different sort of crisis — an economic one — into a new day.

Your state government’s response to crises caused by natural conditions mirrors its response to crises due to economic conditions.

One year ago, we learned that the state was in dire need of getting its finances in order.

We refused to flinch in the face of tough decisions and endured criticism for those hard choices.

Now, we have turned the corner.

 Investors and rating agencies are affirming that our state’s “financial management is sound.”

 Despite a worldwide economic climate that has put other states and entire countries on the brink of financial collapse, the State of Hawai‘i has managed to balance its checkbook and set the stage for responsible growth.

As we entered 2012, my administration submitted a balanced supplemental budget for our state that seeks to maintain a healthy surplus, incorporates savings achieved through solid fiscal management, funds high-priority programs, and does not rely on tax increases.

 In short, we started the new year with a positive general fund balance for the first time in three years.

Our prudent efforts continue to bear fruit.

On March 7, the Council on Revenues upgraded its outlook on state revenues to 12 percent growth over last year’s general fund tax collections.

As we balance providing for the safety and security of our residents with stewardship of our environment, we will continue placing a priority on community as we shape a sustainable economy.

Ultimately, this puts the state in a better position to rebound faster from natural and economic events alike, and will preserve opportunity for future generations to live, work and raise families of their own on  Kaua‘i and throughout the Aloha State.

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