GOVERNOR GREEN MARKS FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE
Address Highlights Steps on the Path Forward
News Release from Office of the Governor, December 5, 2023
HONOLULU — Governor Josh Green, M.D., marked the completion of his first year in office with an address detailing bold actions he has taken to serve the people of Hawai‘i.
The Governor and his new administration addressed the highest cost of living in the U.S.; the second-highest rate of homelessness per capita; the long-festering affordable housing shortage of some 50,000 units; the Red Hill water contamination crisis; a teacher shortage impacting public education for our keiki; a shortage of healthcare workers especially in rural communities; ongoing gun violence and the previously unimaginable devastation suffered in the Maui wildfires.
In line with the priorities outlined in his inaugural State of the State Address in January, Governor Green introduced and passed the first phase of the Green Affordability Plan to reduce the high cost of living for working families, providing $104 million in direct income tax relief for ALICE families (Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed). Governor Green will seek $250 million in additional relief for Hawai‘i families, via the child and dependent tax credit this year.
The Governor in January signed the first Emergency Proclamation on Homelessness to cut through red tape, allowing for construction of up to 12 kauhale villages statewide in the coming years. The first medical respite kauhale, Pūlama Ola, was opened in May, adjacent to the Governor’s backyard to lead by example in changing the mindset to “Yes In My Backyard,” from “Not In My Backyard.” More kauhale to house the houseless are in the pipeline for construction.
To help keep Hawai‘i’s people at home in the islands, Governor Green exercised his emergency powers to create a committee of the state’s leading housing experts to fast-track the development of affordable housing projects. Some 10,800 units of new affordable housing for working families at the state’s nine public housing properties were immediately approved and more affordable housing units — as well as homesteads for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries, are coming.
Another 800 new housing units planned by county governments and private developers have also broken ground or opened this year.
Protecting the health and safety of our people and preserving our precious environmental resources have been top priorities for Governor Green. His leadership alongside state and county officials has resulted in important progress on draining fuel from Red Hill so it can finally be shut down for good. The draining of up to 250 million gallons from Red Hill’s 20 mammoth tanks – the U.S. military’s largest underground fuel storage facility — began five months ahead of schedule.
Governor Green’s commitment to public education was demonstrated in the successful negotiation of a new four-year contract with the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association and the 13,500 teachers it represents, in April of this year. With its substantial pay raises for new hires and bonuses for experienced professionals, the contract has paid dividends with teaching positions being filled, vacancies dropping, keeping more and more teachers from leaving the educational field.
As the only active physician-governor in the U.S., Governor Green’s announcement of the Healthcare Education Loan Repayment Program begins to address the severe shortage of healthcare professionals in the state. The HELP program has already awarded 585 healthcare licensees in exchange for two years of full-time or half-time service in Hawai‘i, providing care for at least 30% vulnerable patients. This ensures that access to care will be improved for the underserved, especially in rural communities.
The growing problem of gun violence was met with the state’s first meaningful gun buyback in decades, in October. Nearly 500 firearms were turned in, taken off our streets in exchange for grocery gift cards. This initiative, along with the Governor’s commitment to creating safe places from guns, and his signing of key firearms-related legislation on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, will help make our communities safer and protect our keiki from deadly violence.
The most devastating disaster most kama‘āina will ever see, killed 100 of our loved ones and destroyed most of historic Lahaina Town on August 8. The Lahaina Fire is considered to have been the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century. Governor Green’s request to President Biden for federal assistance was approved within hours and since then, survivors and displaced residents have received more than $120 million in housing assistance, and will receive another $130 million in state and federal aid.
Additional aid will be offered to those who lost loved ones or who were severely injured in the fires through the Governor’s Maui Relief Fund, as part of his One ‘Ohana Initiative.
The Governor and our state partners work daily to find longer-term housing solutions for our Maui neighbors and the Department of Human Services has just announced a Rental Assistance Program to help people relocate from hotel rooms to homes. Governor Green also has provided $12.5 million in emergency grants through Maui Economic Opportunity for businesses affected by the wildfire.
Additional accomplishments of Governor Green and his administration:
Hawai‘i Life Flight
o The Dec. 15, 2022 fatal crash of a Hawai‘i Life Flight air ambulance – the state’s sole interisland medical transport company — exposed the need to bolster the neighbor islands’ medical airlift capacity.
o Governor Josh Green issued an Emergency Proclamation allowing the state to supplement medical airlift capacity with aircraft and flight crews from other states and with commercial carriers serving rural communities.
o In May, OptimuM Air of Las Vegas began operations as the state’s second air ambulance carrier.
CNHA/HVCB resolution for tourism
Governor Green’s approach to resolve the heated tourism contract disputes brought a working peace between the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and the Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau, whose divisions over the previous year threatened Hawai‘i’s pressing need for a cohesive tourism marketing plan.
GIA Release ($50M)
Governor Green worked with the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Budget and Finance in March to release $50 million in stalled grants-in-aid. These releases supported nearly 180 nonprofit organizations navigating a new, somewhat challenging environment for non-profits following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fixed Year One Budget, corrected $1B overage
New stark projections from the Council on Revenues (COR) between March and May 2023 showed declining revenue. Governor Green’s measured approach balanced fiscal accountability with Hawai‘i’s pressing needs.
Going forward, Governor Green will need to reevaluate Hawai‘i’s spending needs in light of the Maui Wildfire Disaster.
Japan Diplomatic Mission
In early November, Governor Green led a delegation to Japan to engage with senior Japanese political leaders and tourism industry leaders to welcome Japanese visitors back to Maui—and other parts of Hawai‘i. Additionally, Governor Green expressed his intention to make travel easier through pre-custom checks (Japan Times)
Appointed female judges
Seeking to achieve gender equity among judges in the state Judiciary, Governor Green has appointed Lisa Ginoza to the State Supreme Court; Judge Kimberly Guidry to the Intermediate Court of Appeals and Judge Michelle Drewyer to the Second Circuit Court on Maui, creating a nearly even balance.
Protected Women’s Reproductive Rights
Among the bills Governor Green first signed into law was SB1, which “expands access to reproductive health care services in numerous ways; clarifies that the state will not deny or interfere with a pregnant person’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and protects Hawai‘i health care providers from punitive legal action from within or outside of the state relating to the provision of legally provided reproductive health care services. Additional protections, prohibitions and requirements are included.” (News release)
In response to efforts by extreme judges on the continent to revoke the approval of mifepristone for use in abortion medication in early April 2023, Governor Green directed Comptroller Keith Regan and Tax Director Gary Suganuma to secure a year’s supply of the drug. (Governor’s Office, July 2023)
Fixed Obrero (Grand Jury)
o The Obrero reform bill addressed a potentially troubling problem in the state’s criminal justice system. The ruling could have forced prosecutors to recharge hundreds of violent offenders and set them free as a grand jury considers their cases.
o Bill 36, which was signed by Governor Josh Green in March, clarified that a person could be tried and sentenced for serious felonies either through the complaint and preliminary hearing process, indictment by grand jury, or by written information. The new law also barred prosecutors from making multiple attempts to charge a person with the same felony by presenting the same evidence to a grand jury or judge, or both.
Text of the Governor’s address was previously distributed.
Links to assets:
Video of the Governor’s Dec. 5 address
Accompanying photos courtesy Office of the Governor
Produced video of address with photos
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