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Danny De Gracia: Hawaii Should Rise While “The Stars Are Aligned”

Hawaii’s 31st Legislature will convene its opening day Wednesday. It may turn out to be a fortuitous omen that the start of our new legislature coincides with the very day that President-elect Joe Biden celebrates his inauguration, as local Democrats will now benefit from a rare alignment of majority rule in the world. ‘State, Congress and the Presidency.

Since the death of US Senator Daniel Inouye in 2012, Hawaii has struggled financially and has been lost at sea in terms of the local government’s vision for success. There is no shame in admitting the truth that Hawaii, without the help of federal funding, is not sustainable and will inevitably always resort to low priority infrastructure, helpful government services, environment, education and scientific or cultural progress just to keep the lights on.

When we look at Governor David Ige’s Draft executive biennial budget for 2021-2023, the state is threatened with being dismantled in an austerity chop shop just to make ends meet. The next legislature is expected to be just as tough, if not tougher than the Ige administration in tightening the state belt and making distinctions between what is absolutely necessary and what is purely an optional subtlety. .

This kind of survivalist way of thinking may have made sense last year, when the US House and Senate were divided against each other and the President, and obstructionism was rampant. at all levels of the federal government. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously offered the State of Hawaii $ 3.34 billion in emergency aid to save lives with the Act on the HEROES mid-2020, but the Senate prevented it from seeing the light of day. Hawaii was alone and blacklisted as a Democratic state in a hostile Republican regime, and our government had to do what it had to do to stay afloat.

Capitol in Mauka showing an open floor plan and architectural features.
Hawaii should dream big while Democrats control two federal branches of government. Cory Lum / Civil Beat

This is not the case today. Outgoing President Donald Trump and his MAGA movement so infuriated the American public that a new coalition of independents, moderates, liberals and progressives united to form a resurgent Democratic Party that has taken two of the three branches of the federal government.

If you are an elected Hawaii Democrat, now is not the time to back down, but to stand up and fix Aloha State while Congress and the Presidency are in your favor.

Hawaii House Vice President John Mizuno said in an interview that he supports taking initiative rather than being passive right now.

“It would be prudent to work with our federal delegation and President Biden to secure strong federal stimulus funding for Hawaii,” Mizuno said. “The stars are aligned because we have a Democratic controlled Congress, a Senate, with a Democratic president, and we are a Democratic state.”

If I was advising the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means Committees, the first thing I would tell them to do is meet with our Congressional delegation and tell them what the top priorities of the state are, and ‘Add to that a wish list of other things that could benefit from federal assistance, and I would encourage them to work with DC, rather than working against the residents of Hawaii, to meet those needs.

Simply put, if the Biden administration plans to provide $ 1.9 trillion in emergency aid at home, our state and congressional leaders must work together to ensure that Hawaii’s priorities are clearly identified, rather than generally addressed.

If you are an elected Hawaii Democrat, now is not the time to back down, but to stand up and fix Aloha State while Congress and the Presidency are in your favor.

While my Republican friends and local fiscal conservatives may scowl at this kind of Democratic political push, I would like to remind them that this is essentially the modern, national equivalent of the United States rebuilding post-war Europe. with the marshall plan, and as community actors, they should welcome any opportunity to quickly get Hawaii back on its feet. If rebuilding our devastated allies abroad was a wise use of federal funds, we should be just as keen on rebuilding our states and cities at home with help from DC as well.

Now is not the time for a legislative session that scuttles the Pacific. Hawaii lawmakers, more than ever, must work with our congressional delegation to begin building things that add long-term value and prestige to our islands.

We need to repair the existing infrastructure and build more. We need to clean up the environment and put systems in place to prepare for the effects of climate change. We need to modernize our education system and make better facilities available to teachers and students. Above all, we need to dream big, not small, because the opportunity to get things done for Hawaii will not last forever.

I remember the poem Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses”: “And although we are not now that force in which the old days stirred the earth and the sky, what we are, we are; the same temperament of heroic hearts, weakened by time and fate, but strong in will, to struggle, to seek, to find and not to give in.

We have been hit hard by the pandemic and other challenges here in Hawaii, and while we may be weaker than ever, now is the time to strengthen our Legislature. Make this session count.

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