HONOLULU (KITV4) — In a one-on-one interview on Tuesday, Gov. David Ige spoke about some of the topics he did not address in his final State of the State speech.
Ige spent the past two years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which included creating mandates and orders affecting travel, businesses, and residents as a whole, some of which he was criticized for.
When asked what letter grade he would give himself for how he has handled the pandemic thus far, Ige replied, “I would say that we’re somewhere between a B and an A.”
“First, I would say I’m really proud of the response of the community. I’ve spoken with many hotel and visitor industry properties. I’ve spoken with attractions. I’ve talked with restaurants. And in virtually every single instance, they understood the public health emergency that we were in. They definitely had struggles and concerns but they were willing and wanted to be part of the solution.”
Travelers arriving in Hawaii from out of state currently have the option to bypass the mandatory quarantine by showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative pre-travel test result.
Ige stopped short of announcing the need for a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated for the Safe Travels program.
“Certainly, we are working on the changes necessary to implement, ensuring that travelers are up to date in their vaccination, which would require a booster shot for those who are five months beyond the second dose. So, we hope in the next day or few days to be able to announce exactly when that would take effect,” Ige said.
Ige on the U.H. football team’s new head coach
The governor also weighed in on the University of Hawaii football team’s hiring process and new head coach. Former head coach Todd Graham resigned on Jan. 14. Seven days later, June Jones declined the head coach offer saying he could not accept the terms he was offered. The next day, former UH star quarterback Timmy Chang was offered the job and accepted it.
“I fully support Timmy Chang. I sat through many of his games in person prior to becoming governor and as a graduate of the University of Hawaii, I am excited to move to the Timmy Chang era of football at the university campus. I know Dave Matlin and I know David Lassner and I do know that they are taking actions that they believe to be in the best interest of the university, and I am excited to be able to support a fellow alumni,” Ige said.
Ige on the possible creation of a Department of Law Enforcement and training facility
There is currently a push to create a new state Department of Law Enforcement by consolidating the law enforcement and investigations functions of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Attorney General, the Office of Homeland Security, and the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Sheriff Division.
“We do believe that this proposal would allow us to have a cabinet member that would be focused on law enforcement and can ensure that we improve the statewide law enforcement standards that can be focused on the state law enforcement responsibilities,” Ige said.
The Senate and House proposals, SB3139 and HB2171, also include creating a training center for all state and county law enforcement, where officers would have to go to get certified.
“That might be something that may happen in the future. I do think that’s a number of years off. You know our focus is about trying to reorganize the structure of the organization we do anticipate that having a joint training facility might be helpful in the future,” Ige said.
Ige on raising the state’s minimum wage
State legislators also introduced a bill in the House last week, HB1503, to raise Hawaii’s minimum wage from $10.10 per hour to $18 an hour, phased in over several years.
“I am hopeful that the legislature will raise the minimum wage. You know we have seen especially during this pandemic that labor shortages are very persistent in our economy, and we do believe that raising the minimum wage would help with that,” Ige said.
Ige on the TMT project and diversifying the economy
The governor also provided an update on the status of the Thirty Meter Telescope project.
“It is clear that the current project does not have all of the funds that it needs to complete the project. They will be seeking funds from the National Science Foundation in order to make up that difference. So we know that’s the next step,” he said.
During his State of the State speech last year, Ige spoke about Hawaii 2.0 and diversifying the economy so that it is not so reliant on tourism. When asked what his administration has done regarding that, Ige replied, “There’s been a number of actions that they’ve taken both to support the local businesses in establishing and helping them with digital marketing for example and helping them expand production of services and goods especially here in the islands for export to other areas.”
Ige is now in his final year in office of his second term as governor. When asked what he wants to be known for as governor and what he wants his legacy to be, Ige replied, “I’m just really focused on working hard till the last day of this administration.
“You know when I first got elected, we had a cabinet and talked about what’s the mission or vision of the Ige administration? It really was first and foremost to change the trajectory of Hawaii so that our children can choose to call Hawaii home by restoring faith and trust in government. And that’s what’s driven this administration.”