Gov. Josh Green shares vision for Hawaii

Jan. 24—Gov. Josh Green outlined a bold vision for Hawaii's future that includes tax reform and ideas to turn Hawaii into a global model addressing climate change—immediately after Green signed his first emergency proclamation on homelessness, which received a standing ovation Monday in a joint session of the state House and Senate.

Gov. Josh Green outlined a bold vision for Hawaii's future that includes tax reform and ideas to turn Hawaii into a global model addressing climate change—immediately after Green signed his first emergency proclamation on homelessness, which received a standing ovation Monday in a joint session of the state House and Senate.

But House and Senate leaders, who applauded Green's first State of the State address multiple times during his more than hourlong speech, said they want many more details before signing off on Green's ideas—along with his nominees to lead state agencies.

After 49 days in office, Green's speech on the House floor represented the continuing push-pull between the executive and legislative branches about how to best spend sometimes record levels of state funding approved in 2022 to make progress on popular ideas, including how to best help Hawaii residents from keiki to kupuna along with struggling families to give them reasons not to move to more affordable communities on the mainland.

"This is our beginning, our huliau—a moment to share our vision and our values, " said Green, draped in lei. "Our new administration will take on housing, the environment, tourism, homelessness, poverty and economic opportunity in our islands. ... Today we need new ideas, new solutions and bold action rooted in our shared values once again. Business as usual won't work anymore. There is simply too much on the line to accept the status quo. Each day without action means another family forced to leave to the mainland, another child sleeping on the street, another local business closing and another precious natural resource is put at risk."

Green later paused his speech to sign an emergency proclamation at the House lectern that went into effect immediately intended to "streamline the construction process for housing, removing red tape and enabling our community partners to tackle homelessness and the housing shortage head-on."

Green's announcement of his emergency proclamation received a standing ovation, including two enthusiastic thumbs up feet away from Green from state Rep. Gene Ward (R, Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley ).

In the spirit of transparency and inclusion, Green said he would provide all 76 legislators with a copy of the proclamation.

But, like other pledges in Green's State of the State address, House Speaker Scott Saiki and Senate President Ron Kouchi said they are waiting for details on Green's ideas.

The Senate must confirm Green's nominees to lead state agencies, and Kouchi noted that several of them have been asked to return to Senate committees with answers to detailed questions, including how the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plans to spend $600 million in record funding approved last session to help clear the backlog of beneficiaries entitled to homes on state land.

Overall, said state Sen. Michelle Kidani (D, Mililani Town-Waipio Gentry-Royal Kunia ), "we haven't seen the details, so we really don't know."

Kouchi said that Green "clearly articulated a vision and a plan."

In general, Kouchi called Green's vision to create more affordable housing across the islands "a step in the right direction. ... He's brought an energy to the office."

But Kouchi also expressed concerns that cutting red tape and bureaucracy to develop more affordable housing in a hurry could run afoul of environmental concerns.

Green—an emergency room doctor—outlined a prognosis to many of Hawaii's ills as a "general practitioner, " Kouchi said, and it's now up to the Senate to serve as "the scalpel."

Following his address to legislators, Green received hugs from Kouchi and Saiki, who told Green, "I thought it was an excellent speech."

Green raised issues "that need to be resolved, " Saiki said. "I give him a lot of credit for that."

Green also pledged to work with the Legislature to :—Help struggling families afford "basic household necessities such as child care, health care and transportation "—and who must choose between buying food or medicine because they are one "paycheck or one health crisis away from slipping into poverty or facing eviction. Our cost of living is the highest in the country at nearly twice the national average. In Hawaii we should not teeter on the brink of poverty in order to provide for our ohana. One job should be enough to support a family."—Reform the state tax code following recommendations of the 2020 Tax Commission, including passage of "the Green Affordability Plan, " which would provide over $300 million in tax cuts "for the people that need it most." Other tax reforms would more than double the standard deduction to $5, 000 from $2, 200 and double the personal exemption to $2, 288 from $1, 144.

"Under this proposal, a family of four in every income bracket can anticipate nearly $2, 000 in savings due to reduced taxes, " Green said. "For many, this is the equivalent of a full extra monthly paycheck every year."—Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help working families with up to $10, 000 to pay for "day care, babysitters, summer camps, after-school care and adult day care."—Provide $100 million to address climate change.

"This includes looking at the resiliency of the power grid, renewable energy, sustainable transportation, land use planning, sea level rise, health, natural and cultural resource impacts, and much more, " he said.—Diversify Hawaii's reliance on tourism by "retooling tourism, developing green technologies and expanding our reach into international markets for our small businesses and our world-class professional sector, " Green said. "We will begin to move our economy beyond tourism, become energy independent and fulfill our potential as an economic and renewable energy leader in the Pacific."—Meet Hawaii's fossil-free renewable energy goals by bringing in over $1 billion in federal funds and private investment to create a regional "hydrogen hub " and integrate hydrogen technology into Hawaii's energy grid "with the potential to turn our state into a regional energy exporter."—Hold state and Navy officials accountable through ethics reform and the closure of Red Hill to "rebuild integrity and trust in government."

"We'll hold everyone in Hawaii to the highest standards of ethics and accountability, and the federal government and its institutions are no exception, " Green said to another round of applause. "We must hold the U.S. Navy accountable for the environmental disaster at Red Hill and shut it down for good."