While on Maui this past Saturday attending the 11th annual Buy Back the Beach Benefit for Hawaiian Island Land Trust, I was reminded that we must never forget our responsibility to remain proper stewards of our Hawai'i nei.
In my State of the State address last week, I proposed that we invest $5 million in protecting our watersheds. If we are going to nurture the ahupua'a of every island and keep our oceans blue, then we must preserve Hawai'i's forests and our water resources.
We must do so not only because it is pono, but because it is an essential investment for generations, and for the visitor industry upon which so much of our state economy relies.
I was also reminded on Saturday how our state pulls together when it most matters. One year ago, we faced a sobering statewide fiscal reality. But by working together and through fiscal prudence, we have started to turn the corner.
I want to thank the people of Maui for their part in weathering through those difficult choices-especially to our state employees on the island, who along with state workers across Hawai'i, agreed to labor savings and additional payments for health benefits. We could not have balanced our budget and achieved today's fiscally favorable outlook without the commitment of everyone.
We will build upon this fiscal momentum starting with immediately working with the Legislature to address critical infrastructure needs. This means moving forward on Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) that are primed to provide immediate positive economic impact and jobs.
In January, I expedited the release of funds for several CIPs on Maui, including $500,000 for design of a needed parking lot expansion at Kahului Airport and $7 million for emergency shoreline repair and production improvements to tsunami-affected areas along Honoapi'ilani Highway. These are in addition to $1.25 million that was released to the University of Hawai'i for design, planning and a portion of the construction cost to transform UH Maui College's former cafeteria into the new UH Food Innovation Center.
My administration will also continue to focus on a number of investments that are necessary now for a better future for generations to come. That investment begins with our youngest children. Early childhood education must be the initial step on the education ladder. Failure to act now virtually ensures that our children will fall behind.
And for the health of our keiki, I will establish a new task force with members from the public and private sectors to navigate our state away from the path that has led obesity rates in Hawai'i to double in the last 15 years.
I am looking forward to working with House and Senate members on these and many other initiatives that will further a sustainable economy, invest in people and transform government.
We have the obligation to make a better future for our children. We live in paradise, and taking care of each other is a value that is fundamental to the aloha spirit.
A'ohe Hana Nui Ke Alu 'Ia no task is too big when done together by all.