Name: David Ige
Age: 61
Current occupation: Hawaii’s Governor
Political experience: State Representative, State Senator, Governor

Recent reports by the state auditor have raised concern about how public money is spent, and some suggest there should be more oversight where state funds are concerned. What, if anything, would you change about the process?

The prudent and appropriate use of state resources is a high priority for my administration and ensuring that public funds are used effectively and only for the public good is a continuous process that we gladly undertake.  State performance audits are regularly conducted in part precisely to identify problems with how state programs are managed and provide recommendations on how to improve.  State agencies are expected to act appropriately on these recommendations.

My administration has made major improvements in how public money is spent, including in the oversight of many significant expenditures.  For example, there are now centralized policies and procedures concerning state information technology (IT) governance and oversight of significant IT expenditures and contracts.  This has been a substantial departure from the past practices of agencies operating independent of one another.

Another example of how we’ve changed how we do business is requiring the prefunding of promised government health benefits.  This ensures that we set aside funds for costs associated with the health benefits we promise to employees so that funds are available when the costs are incurred.  It also ensures that we do not simply hand the bill for these promises to the next generation, as was the State’s practice until recently.

We have been actively improving processes pertaining to the expenditure of public money and are always assessing and implementing ways to improve, including through improving policies and procedures, as well as the capabilities of our state employees.

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Hawaii continues to struggle with chronic homelessness, many of whom are veterans, mentally ill, and/or addicted to drugs. What are your plans to tackle this problem?

I have implemented programs that data proves are substantially decreasing homeless populations in Hawaii.  Our efforts have reduced the number of homeless individuals statewide for two consecutive years, down almost 10 percent in 2018, on top of an 8.8 percent reduction in 2017.  Additionally, the 2018 point in time count saw veteran homelessness decline by 13.5 percent statewide.  We’ve nearly doubled average permanent housing placements per month from 231 to 412, and average lengths of stay in homeless programs have gone down to 163 days from 430 days.

We have worked to build a comprehensive system to address homelessness by:

  • Being accountable for public funds and basing payment for shelters and other services on their effectiveness in getting people housed and keeping them housed.
  • Expanding proven programs like Housing First statewide so chronic homelessness is addressed in every county.
  • Engaging in public-private partnerships that quickly add new housing for homeless families, such as the recent Kahauiki Village project.
  • Partnering with law enforcement and treatment providers to keep homeless persons from cycling through the criminal justice system and increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

This approach works, aligns with national best practices, and is guided by data.  We’ve also partnered with the counties to increase efforts to keep public spaces open and available for the public’s use.  Homelessness won’t be fixed overnight but we’ve made real progress.  Together we will do more.

Do you support legislation to make recreational marijuana legal in Hawaii? Why or why not?

I do not support allowing the sale of recreational marijuana in Hawaii because existing federal restrictions on the recreational use of the drug can be federally enforced and there is only limited data available on potential impacts.  While there are changing perceptions of the drug’s potential harm and the prospect of additional tax revenues for state governments, other issues must first be addressed. 

The first states to allow the sale of recreational marijuana did so only recently in the face of mixed signals from the federal government, so there is still much to learn.  The safety and potential risks of both short- and long-term use of the drug for recreational purposes are not well understood and a range of issues would need to be considered to ensure we would be able to mitigate potentially harmful consequences.  Among these is how to protect vulnerable populations, such as children.  From a legal perspective, clear guidance from the federal government should be provided to proceed.

Dozens of states operate a lottery that, some argue, could supplement funding for education, public spaces, tax reductions, etc. Would you support a lottery in Hawaii? Why or why not?

I do not support using a lottery to raise funds to support government functions.  Studies have shown that lotteries take the most money from those that can least afford it, in effect making it a highly regressive form of taxation and potentially exacerbating some of the very issues it is claimed to help address.  Large amounts of revenues raised by lotteries are lost to administrative and marketing costs, also making it a highly inefficient way to generate revenue.

Is there a pressing issue in Hawaii that has gone overlooked and requires action?

Yes, while we are working hard to address important quality of life, equality, and environmental issues, others remain.  One issue that needs attention and has played a prominent role in this election, and an increasing role in Hawaii politics, is the influence of self and special interests.

As Hawaii’s governor, I have led in an open, honest, and transparent manner and I stand up to special interests.  However, my opponent actually pushed through special interest legislation on behalf of her friend, with a price tag of $75 million to Hawaii taxpayers.  That marked the most significant special interest legislation Hawaii had ever seen, and since then some have grown more emboldened.

As all of Hawaii now contemplates how to proceed, it is clear that we cannot afford to cede decision making backroom deals where self and special interests are prioritized over the public interest.  Together, we can ensure the administration continues to act only on your behalf.