|Gov. Neil Abercrombie proposes a tax on sodas and encourages healthful living.|
“THE TRUTH IS THAT OUR CANOE, which is our beloved Hawai`i, could capsize,” Governor Neil Abercrombie said in his State of the State address yesterday. “We are in that unnerving moment when we could all huli, when we could turn over. All of us are at risk, and all of us have to face this,” he said.
Abercrombie was talking about the economy and the state’s $846 million fiscal deficit. He proposed to right this canoe by raising some taxes. He said a weakened government affects everyone – business owners waiting for permits that are piling up in offices with a fraction of the necessary personnel, school children without proper tools to learn, public facilities in disgraceful disrepair.”
To fund government, he suggested some new taxes and cutbacks. Abercrombie proposed that the legislature approve “an overdue increase in the alcohol tax and a fee on soda and similar drinks.” Revenues from these fees will be used to fund health infrastructure and prevention. Childhood obesity, diabetes, health care costs are “screaming out of control because we cannot control ourselves…. Here in paradise that should be a first priority for all of us,” the governor said. He said that more has to be done in the areas of prevention and providing good nutrition for children in the schools.
MOVING MILLIONS of dollars from the Hawai`i Tourism Authority budget to basic government services is another Abercrombie proposal. He named environmental protection, improvements to public facilities and advancing culture and the arts. “The amount we are spending in the name of marketing Hawai`i has grown disproportionate to the amount we need to spend on Hawai`i’s own infrastructure, social as well as physical,” he said. We need to reprioritize and reinvest in our Hawai`i – the things that make our islands unique,” he said.
TAXING PENSION income as if it were income earned by working people is another way to raise money to pay for core government services, Abercrombie said. However, he suggested that those most dependent on their pensions be spared from these tax hikes.
ABERCROMBIE SAID THAT Hawai`i has the most advanced health care system in the country in that few people are left out. However, since it was established in 1974 and 1975, “events have overtaken us,” he said. He called for revamping the system with better information technology and prevention programs, but also said that benefits to Medicaid patients must be cut back to sustain any health care program.
Abercrombie said that one of the most difficult emotional issues is cutting back social welfare programs for which federal funding is being cut. The governor called on community associations and private foundations to help fill this gap with their own programs.
NEW DAY WORK PROJECTS to stimulate the economy are also on the governor’s list of programs. He said they will jump-start the economy and provide an economic boost that will reverberate around the state. He said he wants to streamline the permitting process by partnering with counties and private industry. He said, however, “we will be thoughtful about these projects and make sure they match our long-term priorities.”
“We are going to integrate, with your suggestions, what needs to be done with your help. We want to see smiles on people’s faces and for them to feel the prosperity.”
He promised to fund a backlog of work on roads, highways and harbors, to fix up vacant buildings and get them back into working condition so the state is not wasting money on leasing other buildings for space.
MILITARY FACILITIES UPGRADES will bring in nearly $100 million in federal money, he said.
INVESTING IN EDUCATION is part of the Abercrombie plan. “We will increase the number of college graduates by 25 percent by 2015 by keeping education affordable and reaching out across the state to native Hawaiians and neighbor island students,” he said. He called U.H. the state’s think tank, saying that university grants already bring in $450 million a year.
|Dr. Kauanoe Kamana|
|Muriel Anderson performs with Tierra Negra tomorrow |
at 7 p.m. at Pahala Plantation House.
|Miss Peaberry 2010, |