Hospital transition still a high priority for Maui legislators
Maui County’s state legislators will continue to push for a smooth transition for Maui Memorial Medical Center and will remain vigilant in ensuring that long-term projects such as the Kihei high school get the money and support they need.
But at least two legislators pointed out that the state budget needs to be closely examined, especially with the state Council on Revenues lowering its estimated growth forecast of tax revenue from 5.5 percent to 3 percent. This means having around $155 million less than expected in the current fiscal year.
The comments from Maui County’s legislators come as the Legislature officially opens Wednesday at the state Capitol in Honolulu.
One of the items legislators will be tasked with is reviewing the $28.5 billion biennium budget proposal submitted by Gov. David Ige on Dec. 19. The biennium budget is for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1, and the 2019 fiscal year.
Once the governor has submitted his proposed budget, the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees review all of the budget requests, according to the Hawaii Open Budget Initiative’s website (www.hawaiiopenbudget.com), and then both committees introduce their own budget drafts. After the House and Senate have each introduced their own drafts of the budget, a conference committee is created to reconcile these differences. That results in a conference committee draft of the budget that, if passed by both houses, will be submitted to the governor for approval.
With the recent state revenue projections, the Legislature will have to take a close look at the governor’s proposed budget, said Rep. Kyle Yamashita of Upcountry Maui, who heads the Capital Improvement Projects subcommittee in the powerful House Finance Committee.
In regard to capital improvement projects (CIP) for Maui County, it’s too early to tell what could come to fruition, he said.
“It’s hard to say what we are going to do,” Yamashita said, adding that he and other Maui County legislators will fight for whatever they can do for Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
Yamashita has yet to ask members about their CIP proposals for this session. Both the House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee last week were in hearings with various state departments discussing their budgets.
The recently updated financial outlook could also affect the county’s ability to garner more transient accommodations tax revenue, otherwise known as the hotel room tax, said House Speaker Joseph Souki of Central Maui.
The state collects the tax and currently $103 million is capped for the counties, according to the Hawaii State Association of Counties. Maui County is receiving around $23 million annually from the hotel room tax. The money is intended to help counties deal with costs associated with tourists.
“We’ll try to get more,” Souki said.
Ige’s budget does not give the counties more of the hotel room tax money.
Souki said that he will reveal more of his priorities during his opening-day speech Wednesday.
Also on the minds of legislators this session is the operation transfer of Maui Memorial Medical Center to Maui Health Systems, a Kaiser Foundation Hospitals LLC, from the quasi-public Hawaii Health System Corp.
Ige has included $9.5 million in his budget to help fund the takeover. However, Sen. J. Kalani English, who represents East Maui, Molokai and Lanai, said Maui County senators maintain that that number only provides some of what HHSC proposed would be needed to fill the gap between the original transition date of July 1, 2016, and the current transition date of July 1 this year.
A court challenge by a union representing hospital workers and uncertainty over protecting public worker benefits forced the change in transition date, resulting in a financial shortfall for HHSC’s Maui Region hospitals, which also include Kula and Lanai Community hospitals.
Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran of Central Maui said that the money is needed to start hiring “to maintain quality health care” at the three hospitals. This includes physicians, nurses and support staff.
He has previously said that the hiring of nurses and physicians would cost $5.65 million and reserves are being used to cover other costs of continuing operation, resulting in the total shortfall of $9 million to $13 million.
“I would say the entire delegation agrees on the importance of having the management and operations transition smoothly and we’re prepared to work on resources (and any required legislation) with the House, the governor, the unions, Kaiser, HHSC and Maui Region to make that happen,” Keith-Agaran said in an email.
Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Kaniela Ing, whose districts include Kihei, still have their attention focused on seeing the South Maui high school built.
While yet unclear if the school will get more funding this legislative session, both legislators said that site improvement work is still pending.
Baker said that, last year, the state Department of Education awarded a site improvement construction grant to Goodfellow Bros., but the award stated that the notice to proceed would not be provided until 2018. She said that she is working with the DOE to escalate the timeline.
But Baker admitted that perhaps the site construction may have to wait.
She attributed this to the school being redesigned as the first net-zero energy school in the state, meaning it will produce as much energy as it uses. The design will take advantage of the topography of the site as well as utilize the latest in eco-friendly features.
Ing said that he is looking to gather the school’s contractor, the state and other stakeholders together to give an update to the community soon.
He added that putting in more funding through the session is a possibility, but there is enough right now for the next couple of phases.
Baker said she and her Maui colleagues in the Senate will ask the Ways and Means chairwoman to include the remaining funding for construction of the high school, whose construction total is estimated to be $123.4 million.
Maui County legislators also have their own priorities this session.
Rep. Justin Woodson, whose district includes Kahului, anticipates seeking around $3.5 million for air conditioning for the rest of Kahului Elementary and Maui Waena Intermediate schools. He also would like to increase the housing capacity at Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center in order to help that agency and to address his constituents’ concerns regarding of homeless issues.
Rep. Lynn DeCoite, whose district includes East Maui, Lanai and Molokai, said that she wants to see farmers and Native Hawaiians in East Maui get water restored in streams as well as ensure that Hana Health has adequate funding.
She will also look into obtaining money for a study in regard to ferry service for Molokai. The Molokai Princess ferry, which provided service between Molokai and Maui, may have made its last run in October.
Ing has introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019. He said that other regions with high costs of living, including New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Oregon, have all passed this minimum-wage hike. He said there has been no massive closures of small mom-and-pop shops in those areas because of the wage increase.
Hawaii’s minimum wage increased to $9.25 per hour Jan. 1.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
House of Representatives
House District 13, Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Lanai and Molokai
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 324
Phone: (808) 586-6790 Fax: (808) 586-6779
Committees: Agriculture (vice chairwoman); Finance; Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs; Public Safety
House District 11, Kihei, Wailea, Makena
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 427
Phone: (808) 586-8525 Fax: (808) 586-8529
Committees: Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs (chairman); Agriculture; Education; Higher Education; Public Safety
House District 10, West Maui, Maalaea, north Kihei
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 320
Phone: (808) 586-6160 Fax: (808)586-6161
Committees: Consumer Protection & Commerce (chairman)
Joseph “Joe” Souki
House District 8, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku and Waikapu
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 431
Phone: (808) 586-6100 Fax: (808) 586-6101
Speaker of the House
House District 9, Kahului, Puunene, Old Sand Hills, Maui Lani
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 405
Phone: (808) 586-6210 Fax: (808) 586-6211
Committees: Higher Education (chairman); Education; Intrastate Commerce; Tourism; Veterans, Military & International Affairs & Culture and the Arts
House District 12, Pukalani, Makawao, Olinda, Pulehu, Kula, Ulupalakua, Spreckelsville
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 422
Phone: (808) 586-6330 Fax: (808)586-6331
Committees: Economic Development & Business; Finance and Labor & Public Employment
* * *
Rosalyn “Roz” Baker
Senate District 6, South and West Maui
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 230
Phone: (808) 586-6070Fax: (808) 586-6071
Committees: Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health (chairwoman); Economic Development, Tourism and Technology; Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs.
J. Kalani English
Senate District 7, Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokai and Lanai
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 205
Phone: (808) 587-7225Fax: (808) 587-7230
Committees: Senate Majority Leader; International Affairs and the Arts (vice chairman); Hawaiian Affairs; Transportation and Energy; Ways and Means.
Senate District 5, Wailuku, Waihee, Kahului
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 221
Phone: (808) 586-7344Fax: (808) 586-7348
Committees: Judiciary and Labor (chairman); Higher Education; Housing