Governor Josh Green, M.D. said the Administration’s first legislative session was successful in securing the passage of a “diverse portfolio” that embraces the bold vision for the State of Hawai‘i outlined during his first State of the State Address.
“The end of the 2023 Legislative Session marks an important date as a critical first step to lower Hawaiʻi’s cost of living, construct truly affordable housing, protect our natural environment, and promote the health and wellness of our residents,” he said in a news release recap.
Following the conclusion of the session, Gov. Green thanked the legislature for its collaboration, its willingness to put forth and embrace new, bold ideas, and for sharing values that prioritize the wellbeing of residents.
Key Elements of the Governor’s 2023 Legislative Agenda
In his first message to the legislature, Governor Green identified four critical areas: (1) homelessness and housing needs; (2) the Green Affordability Plan proposal; (3) climate change; and (4) the health care crisis.
“The 2023 legislative session secures critical achievements in all four areas,” said Gov. Green. He said his administration will build on these achievements over the next year.
Regarding Hawai‘i’s homelessness and housing needs, Gov. Green applauded the legislature for allocating housing-related resources into the following critical areas:
- The Rental Housing Revolving Fund will receive $280 million over the next two years. $100 million has been appropriated in FY24, while $180 million has been appropriated in FY25.
- For the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund, $50 million is appropriated for each year.
- Kauhale Projects throughout Hawai‘i will benefit from an infusion of $15 million in FY24 and $33 million in FY25.
- ʻOhana Zones will benefit from an infusion of $15 million.
- State Rent Supplement Program ($6 million in FY24); our Housing First Program ($3.7 million); our Rapid Re-Housing Program ($3.7 million); and our Homeless Outreach Services ($1.7 million).
- More than $150 million for the Hawai‘i Community Development Authority for infrastructure improvements for housing developments.
With the Green Affordability Plan (GAP), the governor outlined a vision of tax relief Hawai‘i residents. He said the legislature worked to address the cost of living with a Phase I tax relief package that prioritizes working families. Provisions include:
- Doubling the earned income tax credit
- Doubling the food tax credit
- Improving the existing child and dependent care tax credit.
“While these are victories for Hawaiʻi’s people, the administration will continue to pursue bold and transformative tax relief proposals for local residents, and fight to lower Hawaiʻi’s cost of living for families of all income levels,” he said.
On Climate Change Adaptation, the Green Administration has helped secure support for environmental programs and sustain broader climate change adaptation goals. The Hawaiʻi Green Infrastructure Authority will receive $100 million to lower the energy burden for more than 4,000 ALICE* households in the state. (*Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed)
On Hawai‘i’s Health Care Crisis, the administration has secured funding to provide loan forgiveness programs for social workers, nurses, and physicians across Hawai‘i. Gov. Green said these investments will help shrink the state’s physician shortage and ensure better health outcomes for communities across the state:
- Our Family Assessment Centers will benefit from an infusion of $1.5 million, while nursing facilities in the State of Hawai‘i will receive $5.6 million in general funds and $7.1 million in federal funds.
- $30 million for the Hawaiʻi State Loan Repayment Program. The State of Hawaiʻi is the first state in the country to start and invest in a loan repayment program for medical professionals to recruit, retain and attract doctors, nurses and social workers.
- Reduce health disparities for the 450,000 residents on Medicaid through $30 million dollars per year investment, matched with $43 million in federal support to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates. Currently, physicians are reimbursed at a higher rate for patients on Medicare than those on Medicaid, discouraging healthcare providers from taking Medicaid patients. This investment ensures parity in reimbursement rates, facilitating access to higher quality care for Medicaid patients.
- Crucial investments in rural and neighbor island hospitals including:
- $50 million for Hilo Medical Center ICU and Medical Surgery Expansion
- $18 million for Kona Community Hospital for Pharmacy and Infrastructure upgrades
- $21.2 million for improvements at Samuel Mahelona Hospital in Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i
- $39 million for Maui Health System for repair and maintenance projects
On the Administration’s Cabinet, 27 of 29 nominees sent to the floor of the Hawaiʻi State Senate received confirmations.
“Hawai‘i’s work is not over,” said Gov. Green. As promised in his first message to the legislature, “we will continue to take bold action on providing affordable housing for working families, ending homelessness, protecting our environment, and doing everything in our power to make Hawai‘i more affordable for our people.”
According to the governor, collaboration with the Hawai‘i State Legislature extended beyond these four priorities, most notably through the successful negotiation of a new contract with the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association and the 13,500 teachers it represents.
Original source: https://mauinow.com/2023/05/05/green-touts-legislative-progress-in-housing-affordability-climate-change-health-care/