Hawaii News Gov. David Ige ending time in office on high note By Dan Nakaso email@example.com May 9, 2022 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! STAR-ADVERTISER David Ige There are still seven months left in his second term, but Gov. David Ige is ending his final legislative session on a high note, with historic levels of funding in many cases and a potential $500 million in savings for the next “rainy day.” Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. There are still seven months left in his second term, but Gov. David Ige is ending his final legislative session on a high note, with historic levels of funding in many cases and a potential $500 million in savings for the next “rainy day.” “It was a historic session,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Friday in his fifth-floor meeting room in the state Capitol. During Ige’s tenure as governor, Hawaii faced unprecedented natural disasters: record rainfall in April 2018 that wiped out parts of Kauai’s north shore, followed the next month by the eruption of Kilauea Volcano, which caused upward of $500 million in damage to homes and infrastructure. Also, there were hurricane threats and the COVID-19 pandemic, which posed a public health threat that all but shuttered Hawaii’s economy for months and resulted in Ige making national headlines by asking tourists to stay away. Challenges tied to governing Hawaii played out on social media, too, where Ige and other elected officials regularly take a beating. But there also have been plenty of pleasant moments for Ige, such as handing out scholarships to students at Aiea High School last week and a meeting in his ceremonial room with students from Campbell High School, where his wife, Dawn Amano-Ige, taught — held immediately before sitting for an interview with the Star-Advertiser, when he reflected on his nearly eight years in office. Asked about satisfaction with the way the 60-day legislative session ended — during which the state economy continued to improve — Ige said he appreciated the efforts of legislators in funding Native Hawaiian programs and other actions that included restoring dental coverage for Medicaid recipients, who lost their coverage during the 2009 recession. And Ige said he was encouraged that a new class of younger legislators was able to see their work help so many people. When pressed about how the results of the session affected him, Ige said, “It’s great to be able to get to this point and have a positive session, rather than all of the budget-cutting.” Before the session began in January, Ige had plenty of sleepless nights worrying about what new challenges COVID-19 could bring. When the pandemic began to take hold in March 2020, Ige said he thought it would last a few weeks. Then it stretched into the summer, leading Ige to ask visitors to stay away, even ahead of Labor Day and the traditional close of the busy tourist season. “Then you get to the summer,” he said. “‘Oh man, this is not really getting any better. … We’re getting close to overwhelming the hospitals, and lots of people will die,’ and we didn’t have a vaccine.” The economic situation didn’t look much better at the start of this year, Ige said. “After two years of budget crises and cutting budgets, we were talking about furloughs and layoffs. … The revenues were going in the exact opposite direction.” The governor continued to enforce some of the strictest travel restrictions in the country, leaving Hawaii at one point the nation’s only state with an indoor mask mandate, which led to more national media coverage. Ige finally let the mandate expire March 25. During his January State of the State address, Ige laid out an ambitious agenda that even he had doubts about, including his call for legislators to put $1 billion into the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund, commonly known as the state’s “rainy day fund” to prepare for whatever economic calamity could come next. “I was not clear how much we could afford to do,” he acknowledged Friday. But tourism rebounded “faster than anybody thought it would,” he said. “We continue to see pre-pandemic levels of travel, which is helping the economy.” Two bullish economic forecasts released during the legislative session exceeded previous expectations, giving legislators opportunity to increase the state’s minimum wage; give raises to public worker unions, tax refunds to residents and their dependents; and fund a host of programs that had been suspended or not even considered for an allocation just a year ago. “The Legislature answered the call” to help Hawaii rebound, said Ige, who himself served for two decades in the Legislature, including four years as chair of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee, which plays a key role in state spending. He suspects that history will remember him most for his handling of COVID-19, which Ige is quick to point out resulted in Hawaii leading the country at times with the lowest infection and mortality rates. Reflecting criticism and questions about his handling of pandemic-related directives, Ige said he is conservative by nature and has proceeded cautiously to reopen tourism and, therefore, the state’s economy. While there were sometimes conflicting policies among the state’s counties, Ige said he appreciated that county mayors worked to keep their differences to themselves. “We disagreed, but we all agreed it was important not to take that public,” Ige said. “We agreed that as the executives that it was really important to work together.” But the shutdown of normal life meant that families missed some key events, such as graduations, that Ige — a father of three — knew were “painful” sacrifices. “They missed milestones, something you won’t ever get back,” Ige said, adding that he appreciated that “the community understood we had to do these things.” Ige’s years serving as the chief executive of Hawaii’s state government have been guided by a philosophy he learned about during an orientation for new governors at a meeting of the National Governors Association in 2014. At that meeting, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon gave a presentation that focused on national outrage over the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old Black man who was killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo. Nixon told the new governors that “from the first day you’ve got to be ready to respond to an emergency,” Ige recalled. “From Day One … you’re in charge and your community is counting on you.” Moving forward, Ige said that whatever challenges surface during the remainder of 2022, his time in politics is over come January. “I’m definitely not going to run for office,” he said. Instead, Ige plans to go back to school to study software development and cyber security “just as personal interest.” Additionally, he hopes to travel with his wife, especially to Europe. Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, Ige was unable to attend the 2021 World Conservation Congress held in Marseilles, France — the country where his father, Tokio, was wounded while serving with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Battalion with other nisei. After his father’s death, Ige learned through military records that he had been involved in the 442nd’s legendary rescue of the “Lost Battalion” of a Texas National Guard unit that was surrounded by German forces in the harsh Vosges Mountains in 1944. Tokio Ige’s Purple Heart citation listed injuries he suffered to his leg, back and chest on Oct. 29, 1944. Ige’s father called Oct. 29 “his lucky day,” Ige said. When his term is over, Ige will be 65 years old, and wants to tour the same ground where his father and other nisei veterans served on their way to earning the distinction of America’s most decorated unit for its size. It’s something the governor looks forward to, along with whatever chapters await after he leaves office. “I know there’s lots of opportunities,” he said. Previous Story Hawaii Real Estate Sales: March 28 – April 1, 2022 Next Story Kokua Line: Will inmates get a Hawaii tax rebate?