Gov. David Ige reported a successful and busy trip to the mainland.
Earlier this month, he was in New York, pushing for an upgrade to Hawaii’s credit rating before Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, and Standard and Poor’s.
It involved a lengthy presentation with the departments of Budget and Finance, and Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and chief state economist Eugene Tian.
“We spent more than six hours in front of the rating committees, just talking to the team,” Ige said. “We’ll see what happens, but we’re hopeful. We believe that we presented a strong case on why the rating should be upgraded.”
Ige said he expects a decision later this week, and anticipates “as part of this next bond issue to refinance a number of bonds. We expect to save between $25 and $30 million depending on the actual interest rates that we receive and again, if we are successful in the rating upgrade, then we expect that the interest rate would be even lower.”
Then it was off to Washington, D.C., to attend the National Governors Association’s 2016 Winter Meeting. There, he met with fellow governors, key cabinet members and President Barack Obama.
“I had pitched to the president that (the upcoming International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, to be held at the Hawaii Convention Center, is) a perfect opportunity to talk about his initiatives in conservation, resiliency and sustainability as I think the president has truly been very aggressive in those areas,” Ige said. “I also personally invited the president to participate in the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which will be later on this year. Again, I believe that it will be truly remarkable event, not only for honoring the survivors but more importantly to talk about reconciliation and about how we can all work together for world peace moving forward.”
Ige also highlighted Hawaii’s importance in the fight against Zika, an issue President Obama addressed during his remarks at the National Governors Association Reception. There, he announced the formation of a coalition of experts and federal, state, and local leaders to improve the country’s response.
“I let the president know as well as the NGA that we want to be the first to sign up to participate in that partnership,” Ige said. “I believe that we have the most experience of all states in dealing with vector-borne diseases and we are in the perfect position to help develop the best practices of what a state can do to reduce the risk of Zika and other vector-borne diseases.”
Ige also discussed the implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act, promising personal oversight to ensure its success in Hawaii.
The act acknowledges “that one size doesn’t fit all, that every school district, every school is different and needs to be able to develop educational programs that’s appropriate for their communities,” Ige explained. “I definitely will be participating in the NGA’s oversight activities in regard to ESSA implementation and more importantly we will be working further in Hawaii to ensure that the state of Hawaii benefits from every opportunity that ESSA presents to our communities.”
In another effort to further Hawaii’s education, Ige pledged his support for a new initiative to offer coding, computer science and programming at public schools.
“We do know that more than 650,000 jobs in computer sciences… that exist today are unfilled across the country, and it truly is an opportunity for every state to really step forward,” he said. “If our students had the skills that these companies are looking for, they definitely would find employment very quickly.”
Ige met with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over plans “to build a different model of how we can truly be focused on families and the citizens and really create a system of delivering services that are more efficient and effective.”
He also conferred with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on a procedure that would allow preclearance of international travelers at Narita International Airport in Japan and Incheon International Airport in South Korea, as well as plans to build an international terminal at Kona International Airport.
“They’ve agreed to be a consultant as we develop the specific requirements,” Ige said. “It’s a combination of making a reassessment of what the physical layout of a modern international airport would look like, utilizing those kinds of things like automated terminals and others that would actually reduce the cost and increase the throughput of using existing staff.”