What is the state of our state?

Hawaii Gov. David Ige presented his fourth State of the State address this past Monday, and while I have no wish to add to the growing chorus of criticism aimed at our governor, I did walk away from his speech with many unanswered questions.

Given the subject under discussion, the most pressing one was also the most perplexing: What exactly is the state of our state?

At the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, we see the state as a physician may look at a patient. Precise diagnosis is essential in order to prescribe the right treatment. That is why we make regular use of national benchmarks to inform us of the condition of our state’s economy, individual freedom and social welfare.

One leading index of such benchmarks, the 2017 Economic Freedom of North America report, ranks Hawaii a low 46th in the nation in terms of economic freedom, due to its high taxation, high regulation and high cost of living. These are crucial problems facing Hawaii, but we have no information about how Gov. Ige plans to address them — or even if he plans to address them at all.

Hawaii’s people deserve answers to questions like:

  • What is Hawaii’s progress toward doubling its local annual food production? The governor himself set this arguably unrealistic goal in his last address, but has offered little since in the way of plans or updates.
  • How will the state deal with its increasing unfunded public pension liabilities, now totalling about $12.9 billion? If strong, decisive action is not taken soon, Hawaii will soon be facing a true budget crisis.
  • Will the remainder of Hawaii’s state-run hospitals be allowed to follow the example of Maui Memorial Medical Center and transition to public-private partnerships that likely would save millions of taxpayer dollars and help improve health care in the state?
  • When will Hawaii’s political leadership acknowledge how the federal shipping legislation known as the Jones Act has contributed to Hawaii’s high cost of living — and urge Congress and the president to do something about it?

And that’s not all.

The governor didn’t even mention the state’s Jan. 13 false missile alarm — which terrified so many of us.  Given the attention that this issue has received — not just in Hawaii but worldwide — its absence in his State of the State address left citizens hanging. Worse, it raised the possibility that there are no answers to give about Hawaii’s emergency-management situation.

Gov. Ige does not have an easy role to fill. The responsibility of leadership and the weight of criticism can both be heavy burdens. But even if the news is bad and the answers disagreeable, we need the governor to level with us and start giving us more information about the real state of our state.

That way we can move on to improving it.

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