by Rep Gene Ward
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s statements against the Pro Bowl last Thursday revealed the severity of the vision deficit facing our state. This session my caucus wrestled with legislation and leadership that put short-term solutions like tax increases ahead of real long-term changes that would grow our economy, stimulate business and create good jobs for our keiki. I am sorry to see that our governor is choosing to continue with the short-sighted strategy that he and others employed during the 2011 session.
As reported in the media, the Pro Bowl brings in millions of dollars more than it costs in visitor spending and, at least, $3 million in GET collections alone. This calculation doesn’t even include the visitors that are drawn to Hawaii later by the free marketing we receive by hosting the game.
For over 30 years, our state leaders have seen the Pro Bowl’s value. It has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars in stadium upgrades courtesy of the NFL and helped sustain the Stadium’s revenues, keeping it available for high school graduations and local sports events.
It has also attracted interest from other potential revenue generators such as ESPN soccer. That our current governor would criticize and belittle the benefits of investing just a little money in the private sector to bring nearly $30 million into our economy is shameful.
Words and actions matter. The ramifications of our governor’s statements will reverberate for weeks and will have damaging results on our economic relationship with others beyond the NFL. If our governor continues down this road, refusing to acknowledge the value of our local businesses and the private sector, our state will not reach its full potential. We must invest in our recovery and invest in our future.