Proposed $18.9B state budget includes maintenance projects

Mar. 9—The full state House on Wednesday is expected to consider an $18.9 billion budget that's intended over the next two fiscal years to increase the size of the state rainy day fund, restore some COVID-19-era job cuts and provide $1 billion to help catch up to the backlog of deferred maintenance at state facilities including Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

The full state House on Wednesday is expected to consider an $18.9 billion budget that's intended over the next two fiscal years to increase the size of the state rainy day fund, restore some COVID-19-era job cuts and provide $1 billion to help catch up to the backlog of deferred maintenance at state facilities including Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

The proposed budget also addresses Gov. Josh Green's hopes to do more to reduce homelessness across the islands by providing $15 million in fiscal year 2024 to add more tiny home kauhale—or ohana zone—communities to provide permanent homes for the homeless ; $3.75 million to help renters stay housed by providing one-time rental or utility assistance ; $3.75 million to provide permanent housing for the most chronically homeless through a nationwide program called Housing First ; and $1.75 million for homeless outreach and legal services.

At the same time, the House Finance Committee on Wednesday whacked by 40 % the operating budget of the embattled Hawaii Tourism Authority.

HTA is working to implement its strategic plans and destination management action plans for each island.

This year's proposed HTA budget nevertheless represents an improvement compared to last year when it was left out in the cold from the state budget and two bills that continued allocations died, leaving the agency without an operating budget.

Subsequent funding of $60 million passed, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. David Ige, forcing HTA to operate on reallocated funds from previous years.

The full House this week already passed 11 remaining bills addressing state ethics reform following 31 recommendations by the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct and three separate bills.

The commission was created following the February 2022 federal guilty pleas by disgraced former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and now-former Rep. Ty J.K. Cullen. They pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes to support and kill legislation on behalf of Milton J. Choy, owner and manager of a company called H2O Process Systems.

The commission proposed 31 reforms to state ethics laws, campaign finance laws and government reform.

Since then, 23 bills backed by the commission will cross over to the Senate for hearings and two resolutions proposed by the commission have been adopted as House rules.

The 23 House bills address fundraising ; violations of campaign spending laws ; violations of the Campaign Spending Commission ; increasing the amounts of public funds available to campaigns to ease reliance on private donations ; limits on cash contributions ; legislative allowances ; gifts from lobbyists ; financial disclosures ; recordings of public meetings ; nepotism ; the state Sunshine Law and other issues.

"These bills combined with the amendments to the House Rules that have already been advised demonstrates the House's commitment to the public to take ethics reform and the CISC recommendations seriously, " House Speaker Scott Saiki said in a statement.

On Wednesday the full House is expected to take up the budget bill passed by the House Finance Committee.

It provides $1.3 billion for deferred maintenance that also addresses "our most valuable resource, our natural environment—our parks, forests, and ocean resources, " Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita, (D, Upcountry Maui ), said in a statement. "Additionally, Medicaid, health care, kupuna care, homeless services, climate change, and affordable housing remain priority issues for the residents of Hawaii."

FUNDING PROPOSALS The proposed House budget bill includes :—A general fund budget of $18.9 billion in fiscal year 2024 and $17.8 billion for fiscal year 2025.—Another $500 million in fiscal year 2024 for the Emergency and Budget Reserve.—$3.2 million to restore 65 positions across the state library system and Department of Education.

Maintenance projects include :—$367 million for highways.—$136.5 million for University of Hawaii "renewal, modernization and repair projects statewide."—$112.5 million for harbors.—$96 million to address deferred maintenance at Department of Education schools statewide.—$7.5 million to renovate the King Kalakaua Building.

Improvements at Hawaii airports include :—$216.5 million for Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.—$50.6 million for Lihue Airport.—$37.7 million for terminals and facilities at Kahului Airport.—$24.0 million for Kalaeloa Airport.—$2.4 million for improvements to Hilo International Airport—$4 million for Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport.------Star-Advertiser staff writer Allison Schaefers contributed to this report.