LIHUE — Gov. David Ige’s first State of the State address on Monday struck a chord with some county officials and state lawmakers from Kauai.
Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, D, Koloa-Niihau, said the heart of Ige’s message outlined a deep desire shared by many local families.
“It stands out because it shows he wants to make it easier for our children to stay here in Hawaii and afford to live here,” Morikawa said. “Like he was saying, there’s not that many opportunities for that to happen because the Mainland jobs are so much more attractive.”
As a key part in reducing costs, Ige called on state lawmakers to make government more efficient and dovetail those changes with modernizing initiatives. An example, he said, was saving $1.2 million in the state Senate over the past two years by implementing paperless initiatives.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who listened to Ige speak in Honolulu, agreed and said his method, to a certain extent, goes against the status quo.
“I share that kind of approach to the budget, which is why I become concerned when people only talk about cutting costs or jobs,” Yukimura said.
“I don’t believe that is our only job — it’s also about identifying opportunities to operate more efficiently.”
It’s a balance, however, that is not easy to achieve, said Rep. Derek Kawakami, D, Wailua-Hanalei.
“The big challenge is how do we provide and continue to provide services to our people with the resources that we currently have without putting the burden of these services and government upon the backs of our taxpayers,” Kawakami said.
One way to address this, Ige said, is “to nurture an ‘innovation economy’ in which entrepreneurs use technology to develop new processes and products from existing ones.”
It’s an option that, Kawakami said, could work.
“One way that we can increase revenue without raising taxes is to create new economies and to go after economies and industries that can pay a living wage,” Kawakami said. “What we want to do is push people up the economic ladder, and some of these areas are in high technology, health and wellness.”
Ige spoke of the importance of health care services, especially on the neighbor islands.
“I was very glad to hear him express how important the state hospitals are to the neighbor islands,” Kawakami said. “It’s a testament to the fact that hes not Oahu-centric even though he’s from Oahu — it’s important that he understands the importance of all the communities in the state of Hawaii.”
The state public hospital system, however, is heavily dependent on taxpayer money to fund operations and will likely need close to $22 million in emergency appropriations to sustain operations till the end of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30. Ige said public-private partnerships offer great potential, but only if they are shaped in the right way. He said “changing how we operate our hospitals to meet changing needs will be key to any long-term solution.”
Interim HHSC Kauai Region CEO Scott McFarland agreed and said he “was not surprised by (Ige’s) very direct comments on Hawaii’s public hospitals.”