Senator David Ige Issues Statement on Executive Supplemental Budget Proposal

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie submitted to the state Legislature today the Executive Supplemental Budget for the 2013-2015 Fiscal Biennium and updated Program and Financial Plan for 2013-2019.

Senator David Ige, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, issued the following statement in response to Governor Neil Abercrombie’s proposed supplemental budget:

We look forward to reviewing the Governor’s supplemental budget request,” said Senator David Ige. “Our first priority is to maintain the state’s fiscal health and budget reserves. We understand that the Governor’s proposed budget substantially increases general fund appropriations; moving forward we must be cognizant of and monitor general fund tax collections. The Council on Revenues will update its general fund revenue forecast in January. The Legislature will need to consider the Governor’s supplemental budget request against the updated Council on Revenues’ general fund revenue projection. The Legislature will conduct budget briefings early this year, commencing on Wednesday, December 18, to ensure adequate time is available to review the Governor’s supplemental budget request.”

Senator Malama Solomon Applauds Governor’s Release of $2.5 M for Waimea District Park Project

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie recently announced the release of $2.5 million in general obligation bonds for Phase 1 of 5 of the Waimea District Park project.

I would like to thank Governor Abercrombie for releasing these bonds, enabling us to move forward with the creation of a district/regional park in Waimea” said Senator Malama Solomon, who represents District 4 (Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa and Kona) on the island of Hawai‘i. “I look forward to the completion of the Waimea District Park and to being able to provide a beautiful and safe place for our family and friends to gather, play and rejoice.”

The funding, which was appropriated in the State Budget during the 2013 Legislative Session, will go towards the initial design and engineering of a district/regional park in Waimea, South Kohala district. The first phase will include infrastructure such as road improvements, water, sewer, power, grading and construction of two multi-use fields and restroom facilities.

Governor Signs Senate Bill 1, Relating to Equal Rights, into Law

Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law today a measure to legalize same-sex marriage in the State of Hawaii, making Hawaii the 15th state to enact such legislation.

In a release by the Office of the Governor, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor Clayton Hee stated, “Although Hawaii was not the first to enact same-sex marriage, what shouldn’t be lost is Hawaii was the first in the Baehr v. Lewin lawsuit, that started the same-sex marriage discussion nationally. I am pleased today to be able to open a new chapter in our state’s history and to join the growing list of states in conferring to all Americans equal treatment under the law.”

Senate Bill 1, Relating to Equal Rights recognizes marriages between individuals of the same gender. In addition, the measure extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage to which opposite-sex couples are presently entitled.

The new law takes effect on December 2, 2013.

To view the Governor’s press release: http://governor.hawaii.gov/blog/gov-abercrombie-signs-historic-marriage-equity-legislation-into-law/.

Senator Solomon Applauds Governor’s Release of $75,000 for Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua Hospital

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie recently announced the release of $75,000 in capital improvement projects (CIP) for the Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua Hospital in Honoka‘a, Hawai‘i. The project includes allocation for funds to complete an energy audit and installation of energy-saving equipment.

Senator Malama Solomon, who represents District 4 (Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa and Kona) on the island of Hawai‘i, issued this statement in response to the Governor’s release of funds:

I am very pleased that Governor Abercrombie has released these much needed funds to help improve the energy efficiency of Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua Hospital,” said Senator Malama Solomon. “As the most remote island chain on Earth, with the highest electricity rates in the country, it is incumbent upon us to find alternative methods to reduce our energy dependence. This project will allow the hospital to conduct an energy audit to determine cost efficient ways to decrease energy usage and install energy saving equipment.”

Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua Hospital in Honoka‘a opened in 1951 and was originally known as Honoka‘a Hospital. It is part of the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation, servicing the healthcare needs of the communities of Hamakua, North Hawai‘i and South Kohala.

Senator David Ige Responds to Governor Signing of Fiscal Management Measures

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie today signed into law today measures critical to paying down the State’s unfunded liabilities and replenishing the hurricane and rainy day funds.

The Hawaii State Legislature worked collaboratively during the 2013 Session to fulfill its commitment to paying down the State’s unfunded liabilities pertaining to other post employment benefits. The Legislature made appropriations to begin payment to these unfunded health benefit liabilities through the State Budget with $100M for FY14 and $117.4M for FY15.

Currently, the unfunded liabilities for the employer-union health benefits trust fund is $13.6 billion.

House Bill 546, Relating to the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF), will make Hawaii the first state in the nation to statutorily require payment of the annual required contribution for future public worker health benefits.

Paying down these liabilities will have a positive impact on the state’s bond rating and ensure that Hawaii’s future is not handicapped by increasingly burdensome debt,” said Senator David Ige, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  “We have also set up a solid framework for future payments which demonstrates the legislature’s commitment to address the unfunded liability of the EUTF. “

The Governor also enacted two measures making general fund appropriations to recapitalize the State’s hurricane reserve trust and emergency and budget reserve funds, funds which were used to help balance the budget during the Great Recession.

During the Great Recession, as one of the alternatives to a general excise tax increase, we borrowed money from the hurricane fund and rainy day fund to balance the budget.  We had always intended to repay those funds so that the proceeds would be available again for future contingencies,” explained Ige.  “These bills demonstrate our commitment to recapitalizing those funds to build healthy reserves.”

Senate Bill (SB) 1094 makes a general fund appropriation of $50,000,000 for fiscal year 2013-2014 to recapitalize the hurricane reserve trust fund.

SB 1092 makes a general fund appropriation of $50,000,000 for fiscal year 2013-2014 to recapitalize the emergency and budget reserve fund.

Governor sends notice of intent to veto

Governor Neil Abercrombie released his list of potential vetoes today, meeting the calendar deadline to notify the Legislature of his intent to veto any bills. They include: SB 1265 (relating to contracts), SB 3 (relating to OHA), SB 68 (relating to sentencing), House Bill (HB) 619 (relating to Feral Birds), HB 1130 (relating to the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation), HB 763 (relating to the state building code), HB 988 (relating to native wildlife), HB 654 (relating to nursing), and HB 424 (relating to timeshare conveyance). The Governor also notified lawmakers on Friday, June 21, of his intent to veto certain appropriation items in SB 909, relating to collective bargaining units.

The Governor has until July 9 to sign bills into law, veto them, or let them become law without his signature.

To view the list of measures the Governor intends to veto: http://go.usa.gov/bsQh.

Governor Signs Measures to Advance Early Learning

(Legislators and children from Seagull Schools join Governor Neil Abercrombie for the signing of Senate Bill 1093.) (L-R Rep. Takashi Ohno, Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, Sen. Jill Tokuda, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Rep. Mark Hashem, Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran.)

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law today a measure that is cornerstone to what will one day become a state-funded early childhood education program for Hawaii.

Senate Bill (SB) 1093 expands the Preschool Open Doors program as the basis for ensuring our children are ready for school and is the foundation to the development of an early learning system.

This measure reaffirms the Legislature’s commitment to our youngest of keiki,” said Senator Jill Tokuda, chair of the Senate Committee on Education, and strong supporter of early childhood education. “It provides a concrete investment in Hawaii’s efforts to join the vast majority of states that direct resources towards school readiness and early learning.”

This measure will also provide services to a gap group of children who will no longer be eligible for kindergarten beginning in 2014 due to the change in the minimum kindergarten entry age.

Putting into law a more robust, expanded version of the Preschool Open Doors Program allows us to most efficiently and effectively utilize the resources provided, with the overall goal of working with providers to achieve school readiness in our late born population that cannot attend kindergarten in 2014-15,” she explained.  “Access to educational opportunities is one of the greatest equalizers we can give our children, ensuring every chance that they can have to be successful in both school and life.”

The program will be administered by Department of Human Services.  SB 1093 appropriates $1.160M for administration costs for two years and $6M in FY15 for subsidies based on a sliding fee scale that the Department of Human Services will develop.

Today’s investment builds a firm foundation of readiness for our youngest keiki as they prepare to enter school, and will serve our state well as we move towards creating a high quality publicly funded early learning system,” said Tokuda.

The bill went into effect immediately upon receiving the signature of the Governor today.

Governor Release $134.7 Million for Hawai‘i Island Schools

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie yesterday announced the release of $134.7 million for various capital improvement projects (CIP) for Hawai‘i Island schools. The Governor’s CIP package included allocation of funds for priority projects identified by members of the State Legislature.

Senator Gilbert Kahele, who represents Senate District 1, encompassing Hilo, issued this statement in response to the Governor’s release of funds:

I would like to thank the Governor for releasing the funding for these much needed projects,” said Kahele. “It is important that we invest in repairing and maintaining our public school facilities so that we can continue to provide safe learning environments for our island keiki.”

$500,000 towards additional construction for all-weather track and field facilities at Waiakea High School and $350,000 for the design and construction of ADA accessible playground equipment at Waiakeawaena Elementary School are among the projects identified in the Governor’s CIP package.

Kahele, who lobbied hard at the State Legislature to obtain funding for these two projects, said that they are essential to the safety and co-curricular development of the students.

These two projects will not only provide a safe place for students to train, practice and play, but also encourages them to excel in and outside of the classroom,” Kahele explained. “I appreciate the Governor for funding the Waiakea High School’s all-weather track and field facilities and Waiakeawaena Elementary School’s playground equipment. Our students will be able to enjoy using these facilities for years to come.”

Additional construction for all-weather track and field facilities at Waiakea High School will be shared with Hilo High School. Both schools are currently using county facilities to host track and field events. Funding for this phase of the project will involve the replacement of grass turf with all-weather surfacing and drainage enhancements.

Design and construction at Waiakeawaena Elementary School will provide safe and accessible playground equipment to meet ADA accessibility guidelines.

Senator English Applauds Governor’s Release of $21.8 Million for Airports and Highways

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of more than $21.8 M in capital improvement projects (CIP) for state airports and highways.  Projects include allocation of funds for priority projects identified by members of the State Legislature.

Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs J. Kalani English issued this statement in response to the Governor’s release of funds:

“I am very pleased that Governor Abercrombie has released funds identified by the Legislature as key projects for enhancing the safety, capacity and usability of our airports and highways statewide,” said Senator English.  “The State of Hawaii’s transportation infrastructure is what connects us, bringing together our Ohana, our local businesses and our travel industry. These appropriations represent new construction jobs and much needed improvements to our roads and airports.”

One of the priority projects announced by the Governor included $ 395,000 for Statewide Bridge inspection and appraisal, in Fiscal Year 2013. These funds were appropriated for the planning for the bridge inspection and appraisal program to determine bridge needs and the prioritization of those needs.

“The recent bridge collapse in Washington demonstrates the importance of investing in the maintenance of our bridges,” said Senator English. “Residents of the State of Hawaii use our bridges every day to get from point A to point B. As Hawaii’s bridges age, it remains vital to invest in their infrastructure so that we can continue to ensure the safety of our traveling public.”

The Governor also announced that the Kahului Airport on Maui will be receiving $4,750,000 in CIP funding. This funding will include construction for repaving a portion of Runway 2-20 to comply with applicable FAA requirements.

“Construction and repaving of the Kahului Airport Runway 2-20 has been long-overdue,” said Senator English, who represents District 7 (Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i and Kaho‘olawe). “I’m extremely thankful that the Governor has approved much needed funding so that the airport can comply with FAA requirements.”

Other CIP funds announced by the Governor include funds for the Honolulu International Airport, Kapalua Airport, Kuhio Highway, Kekaulike Avenue, Castle Hills Access Road, Kalanianaole Highway Drainage Improvements and other important projects.

Early Childhood Education Discussed Using Google+ Hangout

 

Honolulu–  Early childhood education providers and stakeholders from across the State, along with lawmakers, Early Childhood Coordinator Terry Lock and Governor Neil Abercrombie, participated in a roundtable discussion on early childhood education in Hawaii today.  Stakeholders from Maui, Kauai, Waimea, Kona and Hilo participated in the discussion via Google+ Hangout, hosted by Senate Committee Education Chair Senator Jill Tokuda. U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono’s Chief of Staff Betsy Lin also linked in, via Google+ Hangout from Washington, D.C.

Participants discussed early childhood education program measures moving through the legislature.  Providing Resources Early for Kids Act (PRE-K Act), a measure introduced by Senator Hirono earlier this month was also discussed.   The PRE-K Act creates a new federal-state partnership that incentivizes states to both improve the quality of state preschool programs and expand to serve more children in need.  Under this legislation states, like Hawaii, could apply for startup funds if they submit a plan to establish a high-quality preschool program within two years.

“To do nothing for early childhood education in Hawaii is not an option,” said Tokuda.  “The bills were written to create a robust, high-quality early childhood education program implemented in our State that prepares our youngest of keiki for school and life.  Using new media to engage with stakeholders and constituents on all islands allows us to have a more dynamic discussion with many different perspectives.”

“We had an interesting discussion on the future of early education and what’s at stake for our children,” said Sen. J. Kalani English (District 7 -Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaho‘olawe), who participated in the Hangout.   “Using Google+ Hangout to broaden the conversation across the State and even to Washington, D.C. opens the door to a more fruitful discussion.”

Along with using Google + Hangout, the discussion utilized Twitter to receive questions from the public.

“Using communication tools such as twitter and Google+ Hangout to discuss an important initiative like early education enables people to participate in the conversation from wherever they are.  They don’t have to be in the room to listen in, or chime in,” said Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran (District 5-Wailuku, Waihe‘e, Kahului), who was tweeting information during the event.

Sen. Russell Ruderman (District 2 -Puna, Ka‘u) also attended the event.  He said, “I am excited especially for the neighbor islands residents because they were able to participate in government through the use of the technology available.”

( Senators, early childhood education stakeholders, Early Childhood Coordinator Terry Lock and Governor Neil Abercrombie participate in a roundtable discussion on early childhood education. Stakeholders from Maui, Kauai, Waimea, Kona and Hilo participated in the discussion via Google+ Hangout.)

Google+ Hangouts provides users the capability to video chat with multiple individuals at the same time. Google+ Hangouts in concert with other social media vehicles continue to be leveraged by government officials seeking new ways to engage with those they serve. This is Tokuda’s second Google+ Hangout event this legislative session. In February, Tokuda conducted the Senate’s first ever Hangout, dubbed the “Principal Hangout,” in which she sat down with principals from around the state to talk about the Weighted Student Formula.

 

To view today’s Google+ Hangout: http://youtu.be/UJ5LLwrDKl4.

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