A good job by the governor

Gov. Neil Abercrombie reviewed the first two-and-a-half years of his administration and his plans for a second four-year term in a speech before the Maui Chamber of Commerce Friday.

The governor told those assembled at the Grand Wailea for the chamber’s annual Board and Officers’ Installation that he had done what he promised to do when he campaigned in 2010 to provide “A New Day” for Hawaii.

Although we have not always agreed with the governor and thought he got off to a rough start, he is doing a very good job. In particular, he has done an excellent job addressing the budget deficit he inherited in 2010 and turning it into a very healthy surplus this year.

As he said Friday, he made the “tough choices” that put the state’s finances on track. Indeed, he did.

He is also one of the few governors in the United States who has had the guts to meet head-on the unfunded liabilities in public employees’ health and retirement plans. Most of the country’s governors are simply ignoring that ticking time bomb.

Abercrombie tackled the problem in his State of the State speech and promised Friday that a plan will be developed to have health and retirement benefits fully funded within 15 years. The state began addressing those unfunded liabilities this year when $100 million was targeted for them in the budget.

The governor promised that in coming years, “21st century schools” will be built in the state. He envisions public-private partnerships that will allow the development of commercial space in return for the building of schools.

He also said he believes the same sort of partnership could provide housing for the 2,700 Marines currently stationed on Okinawa that are slated to be redeployed to Hawaii. The governor called this a win-win-win situation, with the U.S. government, the state and developers all benefiting from the partnership to build the housing.

The governor is doing some imaginative thinking with these public-private partnerships. That, coupled with his prudence with state finances, could leave a lasting legacy for Neil Abercrombie.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.