From the governor: A new phase and climate actionPosted on Nov 29, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
Congratulations, Hawai‘i! We’ve survived another year of COVID-19, managed the Delta surge and vaccinated nearly 71.1% (adjusted on 11/29) of our state’s population. Although we need to stay vigilant, Hawai‘i continues to have one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation. We’ve worked hard together to reach this point, with the hope of better days ahead. Let’s celebrate the holidays with care as we look ahead to 2022.
Q: Hawai‘i seems to be in a very good place at this point in the pandemic. Does your latest emergency proclamation reflect that?
A: Yes, I’m really proud of the people of Hawai‘i and optimistic for the year ahead. Three months ago, we were facing a surge that could have overwhelmed our healthcare system. Today we’re seeing some of the lowest COVID case numbers in our hospitals and across the state. We’ve gotten off to a good start with our COVID-19 boosters and keiki vaccinations. We still want to remind people to remain vigilant, but we’re focused on getting people back to work.
Q: What does this new phase represent, especially for restaurants, bars and social gatherings in the individual counties?
A: It signals a return to a more normal emergency situation in which the counties take the lead, and the state provides guidance and support. We’ve left in place the statewide indoor mask mandate and the Safe Travels program. But now the county mayors can implement appropriate measures for social gatherings, restaurants and other venues, including lifting capacity restrictions. However, we’re still encouraging people to get vaccinated and make smart choices about activities to keep everyone safe.
Q: Why was it important for you to go to COP26, the UN climate change summit?
A: I wanted to share Hawai‘i’s story on a world stage and show that our state gets it — that not only are we leading in setting high aspirations and taking action to fight climate change, but that other communities are following our lead. In 2015, our state was the first to commit to clean, renewable energy for electricity. Now there are 12 states or territories that have made the same promise. As part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, Hawai‘i and other states are saying we aren’t waiting for national agreement. We’re already committing to aggressive action against global warming, and many people are recognizing Hawai‘i as a leader.
Q: How will Hawai‘i benefit from the federal $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill?
A: The state stands to receive at least $2.8 billion over the next five years to improve roads, bridges and high-speed internet as well as for clean energy and broadband. Because our state has been so aggressive on climate action, we’re very well-positioned to get our fair share of funds — not only those allocated by formula to the states but also to compete for other funds that will be good for our economy and our communities.
Q: For 2022, what is the outlook for the state’s budget priorities?
A: We’re in good shape as a state after nearly two years of the pandemic. Now it’s about restoring funds to programs that suffered budget cuts and providing more support to help our residents recover. We also want to continue the momentum for major infrastructure projects — the most direct way for government to create jobs for community benefit.