Wednesday Governor Cayetano outlined a far-reaching plan to help Hawaii survive an economic downturn. The announcement comes after a high-level strategy session with business leaders from across the state.
It was the first of several high-level meetings the governor plans to hold in the coming days. However, this was the launching point for a sweeping initiative to shore up all facets of Hawaii's economy. To develop the plan the governor invited political leaders - the heads of banks, airlines, hotels, anyone who might contribute an idea to see Hawaii through this crisis.
One by one they arrived, leaders of business, government - the power brokers of the state. After meeting for nearly four hours one conclusion became clear.
"Hawaii faces its greatest economic crisis ever," said Governor Cayetano.
With flights nearly empty and arrivals down at the airports, Hawaii's visitor industry faces the most immediate impact. But more trouble looms down the road.
"Whether you work for the tourist industry, whether you pump gas at a gas station, whether you work for the state, everyone will be affected," said Cayetano.
Immediate plans include tuition waivers at the University of Hawaii for those affected by layoffs or job cuts at Hawaii businesses. A special legislative session will consider tax relief for companies losing revenue and extended unemployment benefits.
"Those who will suffer losses in this crisis, we will ensure that they get our attention."
Tourism receives the largest focus, more state funds to market Hawaii as a vacation spot are on the way.
Governor Cayetano will lead a special delegation to Japan to promote Hawaii, and a special committee will develop a long range plan for the industry.
"There are available air seats. The wholesalers are out there promoting. We're going to send a delegation out the West Coast and Japan to make sure that people understand what the message is," said Keith Vierra of Starwood Hotels.
To help the airlines, the state will waive all landing fees. Hawaiian and Aloha airlines also hope to receive a temporary exemption from federal anti-trust laws - allowing them to develop a more efficient interisland flight schedule.
"If tourism drops everyone is affected, not only us but small business and big businesses," said Paul Casey of Hawaiian Airlines.
The effort is unprecedented, both in the scope of the plans and in the commitment from so many of Hawaii's leaders.
"Unless we do something about it, it's not going to get better. We are doing something about it, and it's going to get better."
The governor also outlined several other proposals. State and county leaders want to ramp up government construction to help keep the economy going. There's also a proposal to cut the capital gains tax in half, hopefully enticing investors to pump money into Hawaii. And Hawaii's banks will consider adjusting loan payments for customers affected by this economic crisis.