SPEAKER CALVIN K. Y. SAY
OPENING DAY REMARKS
JANUARY 17, 2001
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE: FAMILIES FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Governor Cayetano, Lieutenant Governor Hirono, Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka, Congressman Abercrombie, Congresswoman Mink, Chief Justice Moon, family, guests, and friends.
As we open the 21st session of the Hawaii State Legislature, Hawaii is coming out of its longest period of economic stagnation since becoming a State. We have worked hard as a legislature to govern smartly in the hard times. It has not been easy.
We sharpened our pencils. Excluding schools and public safety, we cut the cost of government and cut the size of government. We didnt stop there. We reformed taxes, with the largest tax cut in our States history. Thats $2 billion over a six-year period, with $750 million worth of cuts in personal income tax going back to residents between 1999 to 2002. And we reformed government itself. These actions together have contributed to our economic turnaround by decreasing the current and future cost of government and increasing the discretionary spending of residents and businesses.
The actions we took were tough. Some critics say we went too far, others say that we did not go far enough. The fact is that economically, today, we see the initial fruits of our labor: an economy with vibrancy, new potential and hope.Just take a look at last weeks Pacific Business News! All the economic indicators are up ...tax revenues, employment, tourism, construction, real estate, and retail sales.
After all these years of downward flight, we have to pull up the nose of the plane. We have to do it wisely, taking care of current debts, recognizing that we have the obligation to state employees to pay them a fair wage for doing the best job they can and always always with an eye toward short term actions with long term benefits. That is why the two priorities of education and the economy stand out so clearly on our agenda, which the Majority Leader will cover shortly. Take the right steps now and we build a future in which our people have the right job opportunities and the needed skills and talents to perform the job.
On this opening day, we must all remember why we are here. We are all here because we ran and got elected. We carry with us the needs and wishes of the people. And we must embody their deepest hopes now, throughout this session and throughout our term. Despite how hard the times have been, we do not and cannot accept a failure of spirit. Criticism yes, cynicism no. Not when behind us are the aspirations and dreams of Hawaii.
Im a small businessperson. Each morning I drive my sons to school, go to the post office and pick up the mail for my business, then drive to my office in Kalihi. Later in the morning I drive to the Capitol and conduct my legislative business there. Frequently I pick up our sons, Geoffrey and Jared, because my wife Cora is a very hard-working public school teacher. My staff is used to hearing me say in the middle of a meeting, Sorry, I have to go. I got to take care of my boys.
Thats one reason I wanted to become Speaker. So I could pick up my kids when I wanted to! After I get my children to their next event, for me, its back to one place of work or the other.
If this all sounds familiar its because my day is lot like most working people in Hawaii, except I add the role of being Speaker into my routine.
But make no mistake about it. My day is about my family and especially my children.
I work at my living and I am here because I believe in the future for my children. They must be the best work I ever do.Our best work must be for our children. For they are really why we are here.
In that light, let me introduce the pride of my life, my wife Cora and our two sons, Geoffrey and Jared.
So this session must be about working people and their families. No individual and no political party has the monopoly on creative thinking. There are fifty-one of us. We must gauge each idea on its merit, differ with dignity, get beyond the easy headline and find solutions which really will work. And still remember to pick up our kids.
I challenge each of us to think innovatively, to keep whats good and fix what isnt. I ask you to apply your creative thinking to the following items which are critical for our future.
Today, we are at a critical point in our history. Unique opportunities surround us.
Weve long relied on a variety of industries like tourism. But I also see Hawaii as a major player in the New Economy.
Governor Cayetano proposes turning Kakaako into a viable center for research and education in high technology and biotechnology. I envision a total technology center which houses businesses as varied as a biomedical research center to house the John A. Burns School of Medicine to Adtechs expanding network testing operations and headquarters. The Universitys presence and talents will attract private research companies to feed off their research and development activities.
And lets get creative in funding this project. Do we need to do things the old fashioned way through general obligation bonds? No. Lets:
Attract private capital through enterprise zone benefits;
Use certificates of participation financing;
Issue special purpose revenue bonds to assist new businesses to relocate to Kakaako; and
Use design/build requests for proposals.
Biotechnology and agriculture are foundational for Hawaiis new economy.In biotechnology, we all know about the work of Dr. Yanagimachi and his team on the mouse-cloning project. Their genetic research carries huge potential for disease prevention. But did you know that a number of local, private firms are working on breakthroughs in marine algae products, vaccine development, and tropical agriculture? Hawaii scientists have been successful in areas such as reproductive biology, stroke therapies, new drug development from marine resources, and virus resistant papayas.
By applying technologies we will grow our three billion dollar agricultural industry, which already provides more than 42,000 jobs in our State. Lets encourage companies already growing crops in Hawaii to use our year-round growing climate to do their research and development here rather than on the mainland.
There are creative ways to use the crops we grow. The future of crops is not necessarily in the crop itself but in the value-added product. The result is that there is greater production of the crop. An example is poi. Poi is not just being sold as poi anymore. Its all about diversification. There are poi muffins, poi biscotti, poi ice cream, and even poi andagi.
I can remember just eating it with my finger!
Our economy is more sustainable if we can reduce our consumption of oil for transportation and provide electricity at a reasonable price to the consumer.Given oils rising cost and finite supply, we must seriously consider alternate fuels and increased energy conservation.
Hydrogen has the potential to reduce greenhouse emissions, and diversify our fuel sources while using indigenous energy. Certainly, there will be barriers to hurdle and costs to be incurred but let us pursue this and other options.
For Hawaii to sustain itself into the future, we must also focus on how we can better manage our resources as well as wastes. We are making progress in recycling water, converting treated wastewater and selling it for irrigation and industrial use. We need to recycle more of our greenwastes, sewage sludge, and glass. The potential of recycling is that it can generate new industries. Case in point, through technological innovations, a company called Biodiesel recycles and converts used cooking oil into fuel.
For the jobs of tomorrow, we must rethink the composition of our workforce and the way it is trained. The new economy will create employment opportunities, unparalleled in modern history, to the new workforce---- the young, the elder, the welfare recipient, and the challenged, among others. We must ensure that:
The employment, training, and education system is finely adapted to the demands of the labor market;
All workers are afforded work-based educational opportunities to constantly upgrade their skills;
Schools have fully integrated workforce readiness proficiencies into their curricula; and
The full potential of public-private partnerships are realized.
There are great possibilities for Hawaii in the new economy. Government should help where it can, and then get out of the way!
Let me turn now to family well-being. While so much of our energy will be spent improving the economy and ensuring a bright future for Hawaii, we must not lose sight of the underlying purpose for all this work --- our families and the needs of each individual.
Lets make sure we meet the health care needs of our people. Recent medical advances give us hope for improved longer and healthier life. Yet there are those living and working in our community who cannot even hope to receive basic treatment needed to heal injuries and cure illnesses or simply to stay healthy. Many of those without hope, are Hawaiis keiki. We have made progress toward universal healthcare through programs like S-CHIP. More must be done. This year an emphasis will be placed to help cover the cost of care provided by rural health centers, community hospitals, and nursing homes.
All of us look with hope toward a happy retirement, yet the costs of caring for ourselves and loved ones as we age continue to spiral. Ten years from now over 40,000 of us will need care in a nursing facility or in our homes. In Hawaii, 85 percent of the costs of this care are borne by family and friends, and most of these families deplete their assets within a year. Government cannot pay for it all, yet without some support, what hope will the elderly, and their families have? We must plan for the future by considering every means available to support families in need. Some of the means may be unpalatable to some, such as State sanctioned gaming in Hawaii, yet we must weigh all of our alternatives against a future without hope. These are our kupuna.
With every day come new products and methods to improve our lives. Many of the pains and diseases of age can be eased, and even cured by ever-evolving wonder drugs. Yet the skyrocketing cost of these drugs makes them prohibitively expensive to the elderly on fixed incomes, those who need these drugs most. Let us help the elderly among us by exploring methods to reduce drug costs and increase availability, such as joint buying programs or even tax credits.
School is the center of every community.
Thanks to the great work of our teachers, our schools are starting to make great strides.
On the 2000 Stanford Achievement Test, more than half of our elementary schools are now scoring at or above average!At the 3rd grade level, 64 percent of the schools met or exceeded the national norm in BOTH math and reading. Even our high school test scores have improved over the 1999 results! This is great news!
To help our teachers and students become even more successful, we need classrooms that work. The school plant should be a source of pride for every neighborhood.In many instances, they are not. A major problem is the effective streamlining of school repair projects.To ensure that school construction and repair funds are used efficiently, we must establish a management consortium between the Departments of Education, Accounting and General Services, and Transportation. This cooperative group will have the talent and authority to restore our schools as points of pride.
My final note on family well-being is a plea for those who are struggling day-to-day and whose voice might not otherwise be heard.
We must take care of the working poor by increasing the minimum wage in Hawaii. I am convinced that the best way to get people out of the poverty cycle is to pay them wages that truly support their families.
I look forward to the session ahead.
We have to match the complexity of the problems we face with our passion to solve them. We must offset the shortage of resources with an abundance of common sense. We must navigate through legitimate yet differing views with the compass of our shared and enduring values. And we must carry the hopes of Hawaii through each day from start to finish.
We must practice aloha by giving it.
We must give aloha by practicing it.
I know we can. I believe we willl.
Aloha and mahalo.
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