The contents of the letter are found below:
Aloha Governor Abercrombie,
Thank you for your State of the State address yesterday outlining your vision and expectations for the coming legislative session. We greatly appreciate your commitment to moving our state forward, and we look forward to working with you on many of the issues that you outlined.
Your address indicated your desire to prioritize two of the values our caucus recently outlined in our caucus package: 1) Stimulate and accelerate student learning and 2) Create an economic environment to help local businesses thrive, create jobs and attract international investments. These two issues are extremely important to our constituents, and we support, in particular, the streamlining of permitting processes for small businesses and the fast-tracking of a bill to enable you to appoint the school board which you mentioned in your address.
In going through your bills and the other priorities you outlined in your speech, we have a few questions that will help us as we move forward. While we understand more questions and answers will arise as we go through the legislative process, these are the top 10 questions we would like to have discussed as soon as possible.
QUESTION #1 (COLLECTIVE BARGAINING): In your address, you mentioned that you intended to “achieve savings without disrupting service to the public” through the collective bargaining process. Labor costs account for 70 percent of the State Budget, how much are you prepared to increase or decrease this expenditure?
QUESTION #2: (CUT IN HTA FUNDS) Tourism is Hawaii’s #1 industry, and our infrastructure is a major component of that industry. Will your redirection of funds from marketing to infrastructure partner with HTA’s ongoing outreach to visitors in our still recovering economy?
QUESTION #3: (NEW DAY WORK PROJECTS) A major component of your economic recovery plan included a initiative labeled New Day Work Projects. What specific projects have you identified, and how are they different from the $1.8 billion CIP project already in the works?
QUESTION #4: (TAXING PENSIONS) You’ve estimated that you will gain over $100 million in revenues by taxing pensions without taxing “those who are most dependent on their pensions.” House Bill 1092’s progressive tax structure calls for taxing the pensions for those with a federal AGI of $37,500 and above for single persons, and $75,000 for married couples. How many seniors, and working seniors, will this impact?
QUESTION #5: (ANY RIFS COMING?) In your address, you mentioned the need for modernization, upgrading information technology systems, and restructuring the executive branch departments to increase savings. How will these improvements save money other than labor savings, or are you planning personnel cuts?
QUESTION #6: (CRITICAL SERVICES TO BE CUT BACK) You mentioned “restoring critical government services,” but which critical services in particular are you intending to restore? You also mentioned cutting TANF funding where federal funds no longer exist and cutting MedicaidQuest benefits. Which benefits/programs do you intend to cut, and what will the savings be?
QUESTION #7: (INCREASED INTERNET SPEED) The Hawaii Broadband Initiative was previously unable to make progress because the legislature turned down a request for funding and implementation of a plan. How much do you estimate this will cost, and where do you plan to get the money, or is this simply piggybacking with the University of Hawaii federal grant?
QUESTION #8: (INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS) You mentioned “a backlog of work to improve our roads, airports and harbors” within the Department of Transportation. How is your plan to improve our infrastructure different from the current multi-million dollar harbors and airports plans, or is this a continuation of the those two plans and the highway modernization project previously turned down by the Legislature?
QUESTION #9: (PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION AND RENEWABLE ENERGY) What is the time frame for the restructuring of the Public Utilities Commission and/or the creation of a Hawaii Energy Authority, and will its impact be soon enough to help close the $844 million budget deficit for this biennium?
QUESTION #10 (BALANCING THE BUDGET) Looking at your overall revenue enhancement proposals as well as likely budget increases, it is difficult to ascertain how the existing $800+ budget deficit will be closed. Could you provide the detailed numbers explaining how you will present a balanced state budget to the legislature?
Mahalo for your assistance with answers to our questions.