The Public Land Development Corporation is but one example of an attempt to answer the struggle to come out of the worst recession in memory. What we cannot do is allow controversy over the answer to this or any other challenge to pre-empt asking or facing up to the questions before us.
And then there is the greatest unfunded liability question of all – the failure to address early childhood development and education in Hawaii. Leaving our keiki unprepared for elementary school puts them at a crippling disadvantage in terms of being able to meet the demands the future will make on them.
These questions and the questions which follow require us to embrace our island values and steward our precious island home to become more self-sufficient, more self-resilient, more self-sustaining. We must move from the status quo and provide for future generations of Hawaii.
Therefore, our primary and priority initiatives need to be aimed at preparing ourselves as we assess the demands of the 21st century. We need to look at state government and the budget; our energy goals, our economy, and our kupuna and our keiki.
First, the question of the state budget. Unlike some of the fiscal uncertainties and core fundamental economic issues facing our federal government, our state stands on a solid financial footing
and has a stable financial outlook.
Two years ago, our administration had just taken office amidst an extremely difficult fiscal and economic outlook. As a state, we faced a daunting $1.3 billion potential budget shortfall for Fiscal Biennium 2011-13. But, as a result of our collaborative efforts, shared sacrifice and judicious administrative action, the year-end general fund balances for FY 2011 was $126 million, and for FY 2012 $275 million. For this year, which ends in approximately 5 months, we are again looking at a healthy positive balance.
I want to thank the Legislature for your collaboration. Thank you to the public, our taxpayers, and businesses for weathering these difficult times. Thank you to those state employees, who agreed to labor savings and additional payments for health benefits. There was no way we could have balanced our budget and achieved today’s fiscally favorable outlook without the commitment of all those public workers.
Because of that sacrifice, we were able to support our workforce and avoid massive public worker layoffs. We have maintained our pension benefits for our retirees. The question is will we be able to secure these benefits for todays and future workers.
For the record: This is not Wisconsin. This is not Michigan. This Administration is not going to abandon collective bargaining, but neither will it bankrupt the future for all by buying some temporary solution that does not address the fundamental fiscal issues we cannot escape.
Because we did what needed to be done, we were able to restore critical public services such as agriculture, elevator inspections, vector control, and restaurant inspectors.
We achieved unprecedented success in earning a high bond rating and being able to finance state construction at impressively low interest rates. That means our tax dollars stretch farther in improving the state’s infrastructure and in creating the jobs that come with capital improvements.