Governor Abercrombie’s Statement on Council on Revenues Revised Forecast

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today commented on the state Council on Revenues’ revised forecast, which includes an amended growth rate projection for fiscal year 2014 from 4.1 to 3.3 percent while leaving growth rates for fiscal year 2015 and beyond unchanged.

Governor Neil Abercrombie

The Governor stated:

“My administration has submitted a supplemental budget that is able to accommodate revenue fluctuations – even slight declines – while furthering our initiatives to provide enhanced public services, recapitalize state reserves, address long-term liabilities, invest in public infrastructure, and support preservation efforts.

“The Council on Revenues’ forecast supports my belief that Hawaii’s economy is already running at peak conditions. Although the adjusted forecast suggests slightly reduced potential revenues in the current fiscal year, the amount is very modest and manageable in the state’s financial plan. The revision in the forecast is more reflective of what has been substantial revenue growth over the last two fiscal years.

“Additionally, our success in reaching collective bargaining agreements for most units allows us to focus on our initiatives within a sound six-year financial plan that embodies a degree of predictability necessary to navigate future fluctuations.

“Because of our prudent fiscal management, we have a healthy positive balance from the end of fiscal year 2013 as we move forward on our long-term financial plan.”

State Finance Director Kalbert Young added:

“A forecast of 3.3 percent growth is still a good optimistic rate of growth for the state. It does recognize the substantial rate of growth in the last two years and, at 3.3 percent, is more than sufficient to deliver all the components and expectations afforded in the state budget and six-year financial plan.”

Gov. Abercrombie Urges Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits

Joining other governors from throughout the United States, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today called on U.S. House and Senate leadership to swiftly extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (EUC), which expired on Dec. 28, 2013.

Click to read the letter written by the the Governors

Click to read the letter written by the the Governors

As a result of the EUC expiration, approximately 1.3 million jobless workers nationwide, including 20,000 recent military veterans, experienced the end of their benefits on Dec. 28, and nearly 1.9 million more will lose their unemployment benefits over the first half of 2014.

In Hawaii, 2,200 individuals were cut off from their unemployment benefits on Dec. 28. Without the extension, it is estimated that 250 individuals locally will also lose their benefits each week during the first half of this year.

The Governor stated:

“Even though Hawaii’s labor market has strengthened to 4.4 percent unemployment – the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the nation – we cannot leave behind local families whose situation has not improved as quickly as others.

“The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program provides an important safety net and bridge for families still struggling to make ends meet as they secure jobs and financial stability. Benefits are used to pay rent, groceries, and other necessities for themselves and their families.

“The EUC program also injects revenue into our local economy, which will serve to sustain and further improve upon Hawaii’s fiscal and economic turnaround.”

DLNR To Consider Exchange Of Lands On Haleakala For Public Access

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has proposed an agreement that that it believes will avoid costly litigation, ensure public access to a hiking trail, and create a new access route to two large forest reserves on the leeward slope of Haleakala.

Haleakala Crater

Haleakala Crater

For more than 10 years, a disagreement, and now a lawsuit, has continued concerning the ownership of, and public access to, an obscure trail crossing privately owned lands of Haleakala Ranch. Now, in an effort to find a resolution to the issue and seek a compromise that would serve the public benefit, the state and Haleakala Ranch are considering a land exchange agreement that will provide the greatest public benefit.

Under the agreement, the state would relinquish title to the Haleakala Bridle Trail but maintain a binding, perpetual agreement for public access to the trail. In exchange, the state would receive a perpetual easement for a new access route to its Kahikinui Forest Reserve and Na Kula Natural Area Reserve.

The reserves, located on the upper slopes of leeward Haleakala, comprise more than 3,500 acres of outstanding opportunities for back country hiking, hunting, camping, and nature experience, and are important sites for several department initiatives, including watershed restoration and recovery of endangered species, such as the Maui Parrotbill.

The department is seeking approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday to proceed with scoping and studies necessary for the proposed exchange but will not proceed further with the exchange without returning to the Board for approval. In addition, under state law, any such proposed land exchange would also require consideration and approval by the state legislature.

“We are considering this proposed land agreement because our initial analysis indicates that it may be the solution with the best public benefit. The public would still have access to the Haleakala Trail but would also gain access to thousands of acres of reserves on leeward Haleakala that provide exciting recreational opportunities,” said William Aila, Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Hawaii is unique among the states in that is has a law that can ensure public ownership of certain trails if it can be determined that those trails were in existence at the time of the original law signed by Queen Lili’uokalani in 1892, or if other criteria are met. In practice, however, determining whether a particular trail meets the requirements under the law can be technically and legally challenging, requiring extensive research, documentation, and in some cases, litigation.

A purported historic route to the summit of Haleakala represents such a case. While public access advocates have claimed that the historic trail, known as the Bridle Trail or Haleakala Trail, falls under the state law, the landowner has vigorously disagreed. As a result, the access advocates have sued and the case is pending in court.

Conditional to the agreement would be requirements that all natural, cultural, and historic features of the Haleakala are identified, protected, and preserved, that the public must continue to have guided public access to the Haleakala trail in perpetuity at a level that is reasonably consistent with the public demand, and that the department has full management authority over the leeward access route.

By securing access to the Haleakala Trail and gaining new access to the leeward reserves, the proposed exchange represents the best outcome for the public benefit and will avoid a costly lawsuit with an unknown outcome that could result in the loss of access to both sites.

Kona Crime Prevention Committee Recognizes Officer Nicholas McDaniel as “Officer of the Month”

The Kona Crime Prevention Committee recognized Officer Nicholas McDaniel as “Officer of the Month” for January in a luncheon ceremony Wednesday (January 8) at Huggo’s restaurant in Kailua-Kona.

Officer Nicholas McDaniel

Officer Nicholas McDaniel

McDaniel was honored for leading the Kona District in the number of arrests of impaired drivers in 2013.

In nomination papers, Sergeant Grad Elarionoff said McDaniel made 10 percent of the DUI arrests for the entire Kona District, with his “C” Watch responsible for half of them. He credited McDaniel with motivating the coworkers on his watch.

Elarionoff noted that McDaniel didn’t limit his observations to drivers under the influence of alcohol. In September, while working a DUI roadblock, McDaniel observed methamphetamine in two separate vehicles, resulting in the arrests of three individuals and the recovery of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, a shotgun and ammunition.

Elarionoff pointed out that islandwide fatalities were down significantly in 2013, as were fatalities involving drugs, alcohol or both. While he acknowledged there is no way to directly link the improved statistics to Officer McDaniel’s efforts, “we all can agree that without enforcement, these lowered statistical numbers would increase.”

As “Officer of the Month,” McDaniel is eligible to become “Officer of the Year.”

The Kona Crime Prevention Committee is an organization that encourages community involvement in aiding and supporting police in West Hawaiʻi.

UH Hilo Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Finalist for Chancellor Position at Louisiana State University of Alexandria

UH Hilo Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Luoluo Hong, is a finalist for the Chancellor position at Louisiana State University of Alexandria.

UH Hilo Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Luoluo Hong

UH Hilo Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Luoluo Hong

The Associated Press reports:

Louisiana State University of Alexandria needs a chancellor who can help the school boost enrollment and develop its identity in Central Louisiana. That’s the view of some involved in the search for a chancellor, as well as some faculty members.

Charles Weems III, LSUA Foundation Board chairman and search committee co-chairman, tells The Town Talk ( ) he isn’t sure there is a “magic number” for enrollment but said a population of more than 3,000 students would be beneficial for the university and community.

The finalists are Daniel Howard of Jonesboro, Ark.; Andrew Leavitt of Dahlonega, Ga.; and Luoluo Hong, of Hilo, Hawaii.

Interviews with the three finalists will be conducted over the next three days.

The new chancellor will replace Paul Coreil, who has served as interim chancellor since February.

USS John Paul Jones to Replace USS Lake Erie; USS Preble Also Moving to Hawaii

The U.S. Navy announced Jan. 7 that USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) will swap homeports with USS Lake Erie (CG 70) this summer. USS Preble (DDG 88) will also leave San Diego for Hawaii this summer to replace the decommissioned frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57).

I got this coin a few weeks ago when I went on a tour of the USS Lake Erie

I got this coin a few weeks ago when I went on a tour of the USS Lake Erie

Moving the two guided-missile destroyers to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will provide updated, advanced Aegis capabilities to Commander, Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific (CNSGMP). It will also allow Lake Erie, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, to proceed to San Diego for a scheduled extended docking ship repair availability (EDSRA).

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Lake Erie is expected to replace John Paul Jones as a rotational Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) deployer out of San Diego once the EDSRA is complete. John Paul Jones and Preble are Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers that perform key roles in support of a carrier strike group, expeditionary strike group or surface action group. John Paul Jones is currently the most technologically advanced ship within the BMD program and will be used in that capacity to support the Navy and Missile Defense Agency testing program. Recently, the ship was updated with the latest Aegis BMD capability to engage ballistic missiles with the SM-3 missile.

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DDGs are capable of sustained combat operations supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence. These combatants operate in a network centric warfare environment and execute multi-mission tasking to include air, surface, undersea, space and cyber warfare. DDGs coordinate with units of a task group to conduct naval operations and execute the Maritime Strategy under a naval component commander.

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USS Reuben James, the last remaining guided-missile frigate homeported in Hawaii, was decommissioned July 18, 2013 after nearly 30 years of distinguished naval service.

Maintaining the most technologically advanced ships supports the United States’ commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Asia-Pacific.