When Gov. Neil Abercrombie on June 9 announced Terry Lock as the state’s early childhood coordinator, it was the third high-profile appointment to his administration that did not require approval from the state Senate.

Indeed, it was the second such appointment in a week, following the June 7 announcement of Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia as the state’s chief information officer.

Previously, Abercrombie had named Marc Alexander to coordinate the state’s initiatives on homelessness.

Not only are the positions brand new and led by distinguished individuals, they comport directly with initiatives outlined by the governor in his New Day plan and his State of the State address.

While several of the governor’s top legislative proposals floundered in the 2011 Hawaii Legislature, Abercrombie is clearly pushing ahead with his agenda whether lawmakers are on board or not.

He’s also finding other funding sources — federal and private, but also redirecting state funds when he can — to pay for that agenda.

Creative Funding

Money, or lack of it, is often the main determinant of whether bills and programs live or die.

At the chief information officer announcement, the governor observed, “This is one of the few instances where — when you can’t throw money at something and a problem — yes you can. The question is, are we throwing the right amount of money in exactly the right direction at the right things.”

Abercrombie believes he has the right “things.”

The Legislature approved $1.2 million for the office’s annual expenses, which is supplemented by a $3 million grant from the nonprofit Hawaii Community Foundation. (The foundation funds come from Pierre and Pam Omidyar. Pierre is Civil Beat’s publisher.)

The early childhood coordinator’s position is funded in part by a $300,000 grant from the W.W. Kellogg Foundation over the next two years. That money will also help pay Tammi Chun, the governor’s education adviser.

Meanwhile, because state general funds for Healthy Start dwindled from $11 million in 2008 to $1.5 million in the current fiscal year to zero, the Department of Health reallocated $3 million annually from the Tobacco Settlement Special Fund over the next two fiscal years.

That will help maintain the program, which identifies eligible needy families and conducts home visitations. It’s estimated that Health Start benefits more than 4,400 children statewide.

Administration officials have the authority to redirect some state funds when they deem it necessary under certain conditions.

There are also those oft-cited “federal dollars” Abercrombie has repeatedly talked up.

Turns out that there are such monies available, such as $13 million in U.S. Treasury money for small business investment. The funds are expected to be matched 10-to-1 with private venture capital, for a total of $130 in new funding.

When the Treasury award was announced May 25, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz called it “another example of our agencies maximizing opportunities to seek out and receive all federal funding available to Hawaii.”

The administration says getting those types of funds is sometimes just a matter of applying for them but also knowing what is actually available.

Gov Still Needs the ‘Ledge’

The governor isn’t ignoring lawmakers.

In fact, the hiring of a CIO and the creation of an Office of Information Management and Technology came through the passage of legislation.

When Abercrombie signed the CIO-OIMT bill last week, state Sen. Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of Senate Economic Development and Technology, stood at his side.

Similarly, when Terry Lock was introduced, Senate Education Chairwoman Jill Tokuda and House Health Chairman Ryan Yamane had front-row seats in executive chambers.

But the officials more immediately impacted by the appointments were at center stage and spoke along with the governor: Bruce Coppa, director of the Department of Accounting and General Services; DAGS Deputy Director Ryan Okahara; and Health Director Loretta Fuddy.

Alexander, Lock and Bhagowalia are tasked with critical agendas, dealing with issues the Legislature has struggled with, but the governor believes he can address.

For example, there were a half-dozen bills related to early childhood that didn’t pass this past session, including bills regarding Healthy Start and tobacco settlement funds and authorizing state agencies to contract with nonprofits to carry out early childhood education and care services.

The same goes for dozens of measures addressing homelessness and affordable housing, most of which didn’t make it, including a measure that would have created a Hawaii interagency council on homelessness and makes an appropriation for administrative expenses.

Another goal of the governor — an independent Hawaii Energy Authority to move on clean energy — has been on hold because Abercrombie deferred to the Legislature’s efforts to significantly restructure the Public Utilities Commission. But that measure died in conference committee, and the governor could now revisit the energy authority.

New Day Starts July 1

Abercrombie recently said that, in many ways, his administration really begins its major work with the start of the new fiscal year.

The governor’s comments appear to be less of an excuse for what has transpired since Inauguration Day than a vow to ramp up his ambitious New Day plans.

The plans will include continued consultation with lawmakers and new proposals for the 2012 legislative session.

But, that doesn’t start for another seven months.

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