Abercrombie awaits his economic hand

A lot of factors go into judging how well our governors perform, but often it comes down to what the economy does during their terms — and that can be determined far from our shores.

John Waihee became enormously popular during his first term when Hawai‘i’s economy soared on Japanese investment, and he rode record budget surpluses to easy re-election.

But by the end of his second term, the first Gulf War sunk the economy, the surplus was gone and Waihee left office with dismal approval ratings.

Poor Ben Cayetano’s two terms were book-ended by the first Gulf War and 9/11, leaving him to constantly bail water politically and policy-wise as he never had a taste of a booming economy to build a legacy on.

Linda Lingle essentially repeated the Waihee cycle, coming in on a construction-fueled boom that actually started during the end of the Cayetano years. The return of big surpluses made her so popular that no major Democrat would try to deny her a second term.

But she caught the Great Recession in her final years and is leaving with some of the lowest approval ratings of her eight years.

It’s impossible to predict where the economy will go as Neil Abercrombie starts out. Tourism is making a comeback, but other areas of the economy haven’t caught up, people are still hurting, federal stimulus is ending and state finances are still tight, limiting the new governor’s options in fulfilling some of his campaign promises.

If the economic recovery continues, he could enjoy some happy early years like Waihee and Lingle and be a lock for re-election in 2014. But if the recession proves not to be over, he could be in for a bumpy ride like his friend Cayetano and face  serious challenges in four years.

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5 Comments on “Abercrombie awaits his economic hand”

  1. zzzzzing Says:

    Quite frankly, i don’t think Abercrombie really cares. CIP: ‘Cost be damned, we’re going to go ahead with Rail.’ If he really, REALLY cared about our over-all financial well-being, he’d retool the good parts of the rail idea to something more tenable for Honolulu County, imho.

  2. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    The rail project belongs to the City and not the State of Hawai`i. The state should not be involved beyond its legal requirements such as evaluating the EIS.

    I can hardly wait for the project to be completed in a few years just so I can take a ride from one end to the other knowing that supporting this concept for the past 35 years has been the right move.

    I wish I could be around when the system is built around the entire island – not just into Waikiki and up to UH Manoa.

    Why do opponents continue to support our dependency on fossil fuels and expect that the taxpayers will gladly continue to build more & more roadways plus a freeway or two to accommodate the anticipated population growth to 1.4 million people by 2023?

    That’s not a typo – that’s the City’s own expected population figure, not mine. That means that we need transit-oriented development and much more in the way of Smart Growth planning.

    And, of course, a well-educated workforce and more/diffrent types of businesses starting up here in Hawai`i. That may be another pair of subjects to talk about, but they are connected to how & where we live and how folks will get to & from work.

  3. Michael Says:

    Seven years of plenty followed by Seven years of famine. It is written. lingle is no Joseph but is quite a person of many colored coats.

    I do not believe recession is over yet. If one starting to work now and retires then it is over. Until then it is a day to day, month become years, I’ll see what happens when it happens.

    How come in American Samoa the people don’t get paid 18 dollars and hour like in Hawaii? Unionize the people and they will. Life will then become Hawai’i I was.
    The moa money they make, the less Samoa they can be.

    Evidently someone did not have a toy train to play with when young. One toy train going in circles on a Table top Island.

  4. Guido Sarducci Says:

    Abercrombie is Cayetano redux. I hope the National Republicans strangle earmarks and the Hawaii cronies all starve.

  5. WooWoo Says:

    I am not by any means a Hawaiian Sovereignty type, but I question the political wisdom of having the inauguration at Iolani Palace. Wouldn’t it have been easy to choose a place a little less associated with US domination of Hawaii? I understand that there are very good logistical and other reasons… I just would have chose someplace else.

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