In State of the State, Ige pledges $100 refund for taxpayers and their dependents

ov. David Ige delivered his final State of the State address on Monday.
Published: Jan. 23, 2022 at 11:23 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2022 at 6:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige delivered his final State of the State address on Monday, seeking to showcase key accomplishments around the economy, his response to COVID and education while also outlining how he plans to shepherd the state out of the pandemic.

One key highlight: Given better-than-expected revenue projections, Ige plans to ask the state Legislature to issue $100 refund checks to every taxpayer and their dependents.

He said the program will put $110 million back into the economy.

Ige also ended his speech on an emotional note, holding back tears as he said: “I am proud of the work that we do. And I am proud to be your governor.”

Among the other highlights of his speech:

  • Ige pledged to invest $400 million to improve broadband access;
  • The governor also said more must be done to bolster Hawaii’s preparedness for climate change, including supporting local agriculture and a rebate for electric cars.
  • And he said the state will move forward with its pledge to launch universal preschool, a project put on hold because of the pandemic.

In his address, Ige sought to strike a note of optimism, saying that while COVID has hit Hawaii’s people and economy hard, there are strong signs of recovery. “I see a Hawaii that has been tested over and over and over again during this pandemic,” he said. “We may have bent, but we did not break.”

For Ige, the State of the State was as much a chance to offer a vision for his final year in office as it was an opportunity to highlight the signature programs that he believes will become his legacy.

But HNN analysts say the address was short on specifics and lacked big ideas.

The governor's speech included new specifics or key initiatives.

On the rebate, Ige wasn’t clear on when taxpayers would actually get it, and some lawmakers said it should be bigger.

Senate President Ron Kouchi, however, said the refund will go a “long way for people who are living paycheck to paycheck. So we will be looking closely at that.”

HNNʻs political analysts called the speech “watered down.”

“Thereʻs no big plan laid out,” said Colin Moore, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii.

“Itʻs not as much about opportunity and transportation. It really is a summary of how he got us through this pandemic.”

Political analyst Kehaulani Watson said she was surprised “there was nothing substantive on Native Hawaiians and considering there have been so many protests, Native Hawaiian issues have risen up.”

Linda Takayama, the governor’s chief of staff, told Hawaii News Now on Monday the governor has a lot to be proud of. ”He’s probably the governor who has had to deal with more disasters than anyone else,” Takayama said. “Probably in the history of our state, maybe even our country.”

Mike McCartney, director for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, added there is also reason to be encouraged about the economy’s direction.

“Individuals may be having a hard time so this rebate is about giving the taxpayers back their money so that they can use it wisely in the economy,” he said.

One year ago, Ige said in the address that difficult decisions would have to be made for the state to recover financial losses from the pandemic-forced drop in tourism.

At the time, he pledged to explore ways to diversify the local economy by focusing on a “Hawaii 2.0″ digital revolution which would attract new investment and industries.

[Read a previous report: In State of the State, Ige urges collaboration but offers few details on next steps]

Last year, the governor also used the speech to outline his plan to speed up COVID-19 vaccine distribution, welcome back tourism and get people back to work.

Raising Hawaii’s minimum wage was also a priority for the governor last year, but the proposal failed at the Legislature. Lawmakers have pledged to take up the issue again this year.

Hawaii News Now asked Moore how he thought the governor will be remembered.

“As a cautious leader — capable but not inspirational,” said Moore. “He never was able to get many of his own projects approved in large part because of his poor relationship with the legislature.”

“But he made some very tough calls at the beginning of COVID that kept us safe.”

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