Rep. Sylvia Luke, House Committee on Finance chairwoman, said she backs the executive branch budget, which includes about $8.6 billion in General Funds and $16.7 billion in All Means of Financing, according to a news release today.
Speaking in favor of the House Bill 1600 HD1 on the state budget, she noted the different budget scenario that leaders face today.
“To state that the last two years have been difficult would be an understatement,” she said. “The state faced a budget deficit nearing $3 billion over a biennium. Thanks to the federal relief funds and the legislature’s commitment to build up the rainy day fund, we were able to salvage many of the critical social safety net programs which were planned for significant reductions.”
Now, things have changed, she said, and leaders today have an “unprecedented opportunity” to address needs within the state with a “strategic and forward-thinking approach.”
Luke then discussed the commitment to the Native Hawaiian population.
“As we announced at the beginning of this session, I am proud that this legislature is making a significant commitment to address the long-awaited individuals on the (Department of Hawaiian Home Lands) waitlist,” she said. “Although that is not incorporated within the budget, the money commitment is a part of the overall financial plan.”
In addition to the $600 million set aside by the legislature, the budget includes $41.5 million to build an affordable rental housing project for DHHL beneficiaries, $30 million for lot development and $5 million for repair and maintenance.
“Together, this is the largest appropriation in one year,” she said.
The budget also includes $10 million for homestead services and $2.8 million for 14 positions under the Imi Loa program at the UH Hilo to begin a teaching pathway for Olelo Hawaiʻi preschool teachers.
“It is our responsibly to preserve and protect our natural resources and provide the means to manage our state lands,” she said.
The budget provides additional positions for Kahoolawe Island Reserve and $500,000 to support its work.
The budget also includes:
- $425,000 to fight invasive pest species such as the coffee berry borer beetle, spittle bug, and Japanese beetle, which impact the State’s coffee and ranching industries.
- $900,000 to address the increasing axis deer population, primarily on the neighbor islands.
- $645,000 to clear Albizia trees surrounding the State Veterans Cemetery.
- $1,700,000 for rapid Ohia death response.
- $1,500,000 in additional funds for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.
For the Department of Education, the budget provides:
- $32.5 million to address shortage differentials to retain and recruit teachers for special education, Hawaiian language immersion, and hard-to-staff geographical locations.
- $1,150,000 for classroom supplies, instructional materials, and technology to provide equity of access to students.
- $1,022,499 for seventeen positions to make the pilot Special Education Teacher Mentor Program permanent.
- $500,000 for Commercial Enterprises to allow high schools to expand and invest in their commercial enterprises.
- $2,404,936 for eighteen positions to establish a new nursing section for the DOE to coordinate and provide clinical supervision for schools.
- $6,360,000 to furnish and equip new classrooms and school buildings across the state.
For the University of Hawaii, the budget provides:
- $4,800,000 for the PROMISE program at the Community Colleges, to serve an additional 2,164 students.
- $19,360,372 for the PROMISE program at UH Manoa, Hilo, and West Oʻahu to serve an additional 4,882 students.