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In State of the State, Ige urges collaboration but offers few details on next steps

Updated: Jan. 25, 2021 at 4:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In his State of the State address Monday, the governor warned that government will have to “tighten its belt” in the face of a gaping budget deficit but neglected to offer much in the way of concrete details on how the state intends to recover from the pandemic.

“Our citizens will be asked to do more with less; and we will all need to help each other,” Ige said. “Unlike past years, our main budget initiative will be to find ways to cover the historic shortfalls.”

The governor did not, however, say what programs or services would be cut.

And in a series of omissions that weren’t missed by lawmakers, Ige also didn’t use the address ― typically meant to signal his top legislative and gubernatorial priorities for the year ahead ― to outline how he plans to speed up vaccine distribution, reopen tourism, or get people back to work.

Instead, he recognized the immense scale of the challenges Hawaii is facing, urged residents to have hope for the future and pledged to shepherd work on diversifying the economy in the long-run to embrace a “Hawaii 2.0″ digital revolution that could woo new investment and industries.

Ige added he is working with state lawmakers, business executives and has even sought the counsel of previous governors to drum up ideas for what a forward-looking Hawaii economy might look like.

“I have asked all of them for recommendations by April, which will be folded into specific actions by the third quarter of this year,” Ige said during his speech, delivered this year to cameras rather than an audience of lawmakers and dignitaries because of the pandemic.

“The Legislature will then have an opportunity to act upon these initiatives in their 2022 session.”

In a news conference after Ige’s address, state House and Senate leaders were critical of Ige’s lack of detail, saying that it was “risk averse” and a missed opportunity.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said the time for implementing solutions is now ― not later.

HNN political analyst Colin Moore also said Ige’s speech was devoid of the specifics many are seeking, especially around how to get kids back in classrooms and get more shots in arms.

“What we really need to focus on ... is how to reboot the tourism industry,” he said. “What people wanted to hear is what is our concrete plan right now.”

[IN FULL: Read the full text of the governor’s State of the State address]

In response to those critiques, Ige said in a news conference following his State of the State that he does have concrete details and will be introducing more than 200 proposals to the Legislature.

“I would be talking for hours if we provided specific details on all the proposals,” he said. “Clearly, the State of the State is thinking about what are the main messages.”

The governor added he does not envision “broad tax increases” to balance the budget.

Throughout his speech, Ige sought to hit an uplifting tone, urging everyone to come together and pledging collaboration. “No one has all the answers. But the best answers lie in the ones we arrive at together—not in spite of each other, but because of each other,” Ige said.

“More than ever, we need to lean on that collective effort to manage this fiscal crisis.”

Ige delivered his annual address as Hawaii continues to face dual crises: The ongoing pandemic and its economic fallout. Ige acknowledged that the state has been among the hardest hit because of it dependence on tourism, which screeched to a halt in March and is now slowly recovering.

As the pandemic wore on, Hundreds of businesses closed and tens of thousands lost jobs.

In last year’s State of the State, Ige pitched an ambitious plan to boost the minimum wage, expand state-funded preschool, build thousands of affordable homes and invest in infrastructure.

But none of that got done. Instead, just a few months later, the governor would find himself shutting down the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and instituting a quarantine on incoming travelers.

This story will be updated.

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