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Lawmakers react to Green's State of the State address, affordability plan

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Office of Gov. Josh Green
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Gov. Josh Green discusses his Green Affordability Plan at a press briefing following his inaugural State of the State address on Jan. 23, 2023.

In his inaugural State of the State address, Gov. Josh Green shared his strategy to tackle the state’s high cost of living through the Green Affordability Plan.

“If adopted fully, this package, by the Legislature, it will provide just over $300 million in tax relief annually to the people who need it the most,” Green said Monday.

During his term in office, Green is looking at reforming tax credits and breaks, establishing a climate impact fee for visitors and proposing $1 billion for local housing this fiscal year through the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority.

Green highlighted his administration's work that has taken place in the last 49 days since he took office, like funding ʻOhana zones for the homeless, increasing resources for physicians' educational loan repayment and expanding medical programs across University of Hawaiʻi campuses.

To demonstrate his commitment, in the middle of his speech, Green publicly signed an emergency proclamation on homelessness.

“This emergency proclamation will streamline construction and processes for housing,” Green said. “It removes unnecessary barriers, removes red tape. We've done this before together and it worked and enables our partners our community leaders to tackle homelessness head-on.”

Green envisions shifting the tax brackets by doubling the standard deduction from $2,200 to $5,000, and doubling the personal exemption from $1,144 to $2,288. That means a potential saving for a family of four could be about $2,000. Green is also proposing reform to the Child and Dependent Tax Credit.

House Speaker Scott Saiki of Oʻahu said some of Green's priorities align with what lawmakers have planned to do this session. The state House has already committed to setting aside $300 million for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, Saiki said.

“From our perspective, that's the starting point for the discussion,” he said Monday.

Saiki noted that both the House and executive branch want to bring financial relief to residents.

“We may have to determine what the best avenue is for that, whether it's through exemptions or credits. But we have I think, a concept, an idea,” Saiki said.

And as talks continue, Senate President Ron Kouchi of Kauaʻi said a clearer financial picture will drive discussion.

In March, the state's Council on Revenues report will come out, which will ultimately have the most impact on what the next fiscal year's budget will need to look like.

House Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita of Maui said only time will tell if the state can take on new projects to fund.

“We're gonna have to look at the details, and all of these things and how they roll out,” Yamashita said. “I think it's a good idea to be bold, as the governor said, but I think no devil is always in the details.”

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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