It’s been an extraordinary time for Hawaiʻi and the rest of the world as we emerge from the pandemic and take stock of how our lives have changed. Despite COVID-19—and because of it—we’ve learned lessons that will carry us into the future. We’ve been through so much together: a pandemic, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, floods, Red Hill, and more. Throughout these experiences, what I value most are the people and the beauty of Hawaiʻi. I still marvel at our aloha spirit during the height of the pandemic when virtually everyone understood the importance of putting the community first. I’m so grateful for you all and realizing we all had to make sacrifices, and that made the biggest difference.

Governor Ige surveying the damage after the Kilauea eruption in 2018

Reshaping tourism for a stronger, more resilient economic future

During my first term, my administration advocated for expanding the U.S. customs pre-clearance and leveraged the state’s exceptional bond ratings to build new airport facilities at Honolulu, Kona, and Maui airports. However, the pandemic made it obvious that the state had to act faster to develop a more sustainable approach that protects both natural resources and Native Hawaiian traditions culture. According to preliminary visitor statistics released by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, our visitor count has recovered 95.5 percent, compared to the same month in 2019. There was also an increase of spending by 18.5 percent, totaling to $1.48 billion in September 2022, compared to the $1.25 billion reported in 2019. For a more sustainable economy, I’ve advocated for economic diversification, digital equity, expanding broadband networks for people in rural areas, and supporting emerging creative and technology industries.

Governor Ige at Waiākea Elementary School

Protecting access to reproductive health care services in Hawaiʻi

I’ve added more state protections through executive order for anyone seeking an abortion or for health care providers who provide abortion services. Abortion is legal in Hawaiʻi, and reproduction rights are protected by state law and our constitution. We will not cooperate with any other state that tries to prosecute women who receive abortions, and we will not cooperate with any other state that tries to sanction medical professional who provide abortions in Hawaiʻi. Effective October 11, 2022, departments and agencies under my authority shall not provide any information, including medical records, data, or billing, to another state seeking to impose penalties upon a person or entity related to reproductive health services in Hawaiʻi.

Looking ahead: Funding to address statewide nursing faculty shortages

This year, I was able to release $1.75 million to the University of Hawaiʻi systems, so they’re able to double the intake of nursing students into its programs statewide. Nursing and health care access are critical to public safety. No point was made stronger than during the last two and a half years of the pandemic. Nurses were at the forefront—from vaccine awareness to direct patient care. UH Systems will now be able to accept more students because of the added funds to hire 39 more clinical nursing instructors at UH Hilo, Hawaiʻi Community College, and several other community colleges. My top priority has always been the health and safety of our state, and this was one way to support the stability and future of nursing education in Hawaiʻi.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to have served as your governor during this critical time in our state’s history. Mahalo for your support throughout these eight years.

Best regards,

David Y. Ige