Gov. David Ige began his annual State of the State address this morning with a moment of silence for slain Honolulu Police Officers Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama, describing them both as heroes.
“Our first responders — whether they are police officers, firefighters, or lifeguards — take great pride in their professionalism and great satisfaction in knowing they are serving others and our community,” Ige told the crowd at the state Capitol. “If you ask them, they will tell you to a man and woman that they are just doing their job, even when they step into harm’s way. But, in truth, they do so much more, especially when the need for them arises.”
“On Sunday, a desperate need did arise, and two heroes stepped forward,” Ige said.
Enriquez and Kalama were shot to death Sunday while responding to a landlord-tenant dispute that escalated into a stabbing at a home near Diamond Head, the first time in almost 17 years that a police officer was killed in a shooting. Their deaths bring the total number of Honolulu officers killed in the line of duty to 50.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard received a long standing ovation from the audience when she was introduced by House Speaker Scott Saiki before Ige’s speech, and Ige took a moment to address her directly.
“Chief Ballard – please know that our thoughts and prayers are with the HPD ʻohana and with the families of these two brave officers,” Ige said. The state Senate, which convened shortly before Ige’s speech, also had a moment of silence in honor of the two officers.
Much of the rest of Ige’s speech focused on the high cost of living in Hawaii, which Ige blamed for Hawaii’s population declines in recent years. “Too many in our community simply gave up and moved away,” Ige said.
Ige touted his work with House and Senate leaders to try to ease the cost-of-living burden this year by increasing the state minimum wage, and providing targeted tax relief. The governor joined lawmakers last week in unveiling a package of proposals to increase the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2024, and create a refundable state earned income tax credit for lower-income working families.
Lawmakers also proposed increasing the state’s food excise tax to $150 per person for lower-income families, and Ige has said he would sign those proposals into law if they land on his desk this year.
Ige said those tax credits and the modest minimum wage increase “could result in an annual cash benefit of $4,400 to each worker.”
The package that Ige and lawmakers are advancing also includes a plan to expand state-funded preschools for 3- and 4-year olds on state lands, and to develop state lands into leasehold 17,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade.
That plan includes spending $2oo million on infrastructure on land at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu, and $75 million on state land on the neighbor islands to speed development of affordable housing.
On the issue of homelessness, Ige cited statistics showing his administration increased the number of people moving into permanent housing, by 73 percent, placing on average more than 600 people per months into permanent housing from 2016 to 2019.
Ige also took time to defend his actions in coping with the protests on Mauna Kea by activists opposed to the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope.
Those protests have stalled work on the project, and the TMT opponents say they will never allow the telescope to be built. Sponsors of the project spent a decade obtaining the required state and county permits for TMT, but the protesters consider the project to be a desecration of a mountain that many Hawaiians consider to be sacred.
Ige has said that coping with those protests has cost the state $15 million so far, and more money is budgeted for this year and next year to deal with the issue. Ige has been criticized for failing to clear the protesters off the Mauna Kea Access Road, but the governor said it’s not that simple.
“Emotions have run high on both sides. The arguments are strong on both sides, and that’s what makes the situation so difficult,” Ige said. “There is no easy or quick solution. We will have to work hard if we want to resolve this conflict. But I truly believe it can be resolved if we put our heads and hearts together.”
Ige acknowledged some have urged him to take strong measures against the protesters, and said “that would have been the easier course. But it is not just the authority of law that is at stake.”
“What is also at risk is the glue that always bound us together, that sense of aloha,” he said. “It is the thing that underpins our laws and gives them meaning and an ethical foundation. That trust in each other is also sacred, and I will not break that bond no matter convenient or easy.”
“Let us together find a way forward,” Ige said, to some applause from the audience.
A copy of his speech appears below.