With tight fiscal management and a significant cost savings on our health plans for government employees, we are reorganizing and retooling, while minimizing the negative impact on public services. We have addressed the fiscal crisis we inherited. But we have serious work to do.
And the hardest part has yet to be faced. There is an undeniable storm gathering on the horizon that can be overcome with fidelity to sound fiscal policy, determined action and by working together.
First, we must face the state’s long-term financial responsibilities. Our unfunded liability is $8 billion for our employee retirement fund and $14 billion for government medical benefits. The days of ignoring this threat are over.
The second part of the storm is the soaring cost of healthcare. As healthcare takes more and more out of our paychecks, there are fewer resources available for other priorities. We have to act immediately to contain these costs and keep our people healthy through prevention and good public health practices.
The third threat is our over-reliance on outside imports for energy and food. Our island resources are abundant, and yet we continue our dependence on others for oil and food. To survive, we must make progress in expanding agricultural activities and deploying renewable resources with a greater sense of urgency.
The fourth threat I see is a human capital deficit. We have to provide better education and support for all our families, beginning in early childhood, and create the jobs that will keep our children here at home.
The fifth element of the storm is coming from Washington, D.C. Potential cuts to Medicaid and defense spending could badly damage our economy. And we continue to bear all of the burden of the federal government’s failure to address its responsibility to Compact Migrants.
We need to be about breaking up this storm front. We need to be about reversing its course and blunting its impact. By clearing away the fiscal wreckage of the last administration, we’ve made a strong start.
Our New Day Plan outlines three waves of change, therefore, that will allow us to weather the storm ahead and run counter to the strong currents of the status quo.
Our first task is immediate job growth as we shift Hawai‘i’s economy to a sustainable foundation. We are creating good jobs for people so they can do more than just make ends meet. We are already starting to see signs of improvement, and we will continue pressing ahead with our $1.4 billion capital improvement projects, New Day Work Projects. We are building the foundation for capturing our own renewable energy and developing ultra-high speed Internet. We are doing this while improving the business climate for our entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Our second charge is to invest in the education, skills and well-being of Hawai‘i’s people. We are building private-public partnerships in early childhood, healthcare technology, housing and preventative social services. We are moving on Race to the Top initiatives to improve our public schools. We are making progress on homelessness and by changing our approach to public safety, we can ultimately reduce the number of people who end up in prison or on the streets.
Our third focus is to transform state government into an efficient and effective enterprise. With reorganization, we are conducting government as the professional enterprise it must be to meet the public need. We will continue rehabilitating our fiscal health by following a financial plan that will recapitalize our reserves, like the Rainy Day and Hurricane Funds, pay down our debts, and carefully manage our cash flow.
Against the Status Quo
We have become accustomed to fiercely protecting whatever we have today regardless of the needs of tomorrow. Years of putting off tough decisions have finally caught up with us. Our liabilities are looming and the bill is now due.
The answer is a steady commitment to the productive and constructive action I’ve outlined. We know what the difficulties are and we’re ready for them. Positive change is already under way. We are moving with confidence to build a New Day in Hawai'i.
What we need now is faith and trust in ourselves. We are doing it. And we’re succeeding.