Governor’s Address: Invasive Species, Education, Homeless

January 21, 2014, 1:08 PM HST · Updated January 21, 3:00 PM
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Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

By Wendy Osher

Governor Neil Abercrombie delivered his fourth State of the State Address today from the Hawaiʻi State Capitol, in which he highlighted efforts to expand early childhood education, increase the minimum wage, battle invasive species, and address issues with homelessness.

The governor also emphasized his administration’s efforts to restore and sustain financial stability for the state.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

“We are now entering a new phase,” said Gov. Abercrombie in his address.  “The administration’s package and supplemental budget do not rely on any new taxes or fees. On the contrary, I believe we may be able to reduce taxes in key areas,” he said.

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In the area of early childhood education, the governor said that in an effort to expand access for 4-year-olds, “we are proposing direct services in 32 classrooms across the state, half of which are on the neighbor islands.”

Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

On the topic of wages, the governor said he would be proposing a bill to increase the minimum wage by $1.50 to at least $8.75 starting in January 2015.  He noted that more than 20 other states have higher minimum wage rates than Hawaiʻi, yet those in Hawaiʻi are faced with much higher living costs.

Another issue of statewide concern is that of homelessness.  In his address, the governor said the state must now deliver on a plan developed by the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness in part by, “giving support to the Housing First program, which houses and cares for the chronically homeless and those who suffer from a disability.”

Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, 2014 State of the State address. Courtesy Office of the Governor.

On Hawaiʻi Island, the governor discussed his support for the $1.3 billion, Thirty-Meter Telescope, atop Mauna Kea saying, “it will solidify Hawaiʻi’s position as the world’s premier astronomy center.”

The telescope project is also partnering with the Institute for Astronomy’s Akamai Workforce Initiative to train local college students for technical fields.  “Our state must support and ensure that this tremendous opportunity comes to fruition,” said Gov. Abercrombie.

The governor also voiced his endorsement of legislative initiatives to support Invasive Species programs by proposing up to $5 million to meet operating costs.

He called the item a “top priority,” noting environmental threats from the little fire ant, the coconut rhinoceros beetle, and parasites on coffee crops.

The governor concluded his address by remembering the late Loretta Fuddy, who served as the state health director.

The governor said he intends to request additional funding for the Department of Health’s Early Intervention Services, citing Fuddy’s “affection and advocacy” for families and children.

“There will be lasting benefits for the affected families and children – the children she loved and cared for passionately to her last day,” said Abercrombie.

Other areas highlighted during the governor’s address included the elderly in Hawaiʻi, climate change, civil rights, and prisons. The full text of the governor’s address can be found here.

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