Legislative panel agrees on budget

Funding included for airport renovations, rat lungworm disease fight

State House and Senate conferees agreed Monday on a biennium budget that includes $33.4 million for a Kaiser Permanente subsidiary to run Maui County public hospitals as well as capital improvement funds for extending the Lahaina bypass in the Kaanapali direction and for holding room expansion at Kahului Airport.

Legislative officials were double-checking their numbers Monday night and did not have a total figure for the two-year budget that runs from July 1 to June 30, 2019, said House spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka. The House Finance and Senate Ways and Means conferees have a Friday deadline to pass all fiscal bills.

Though no votes had been scheduled in either chamber Monday night, lawmakers could vote as early as Thursday on the budget bills and send them to Gov. David Ige for his signature.

Overall, the conference committee agreed on funding for pesticide regulation and studies and three Department of Agriculture positions for pesticides compliance; special funds for an enhanced 911 dispatch software upgrade; general funds for the Hawaii Promise Program to provide college tuition support; and general funds to support housing, outreach and legal services for homeless people, according to a news release from the House.

The committee also decided to add $1 million for the Department of Health to fight rat lungworm disease, citing the need to act quickly in preventing the spread of the disease. There were six confirmed cases and three under investigation on Maui as of last week, the Health Department said.

Many Maui County residents had their eye on the appropriation for the privatization of the three Maui County public hospitals — Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital — set to go into effect July 1. The House had stripped funding for the transfer of the quasi-public hospitals, run by the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. Maui Region, to Kaiser’s Maui Health Systems when it sent its budget over to the Senate.

In the end, operational subsidies to Maui Health Systems of $33.4 million were approved for both years of the biennium, an additional $3 million for current fiscal year operations, and $30.6 million for employee separation benefits of public hospital workers, many of whom will become private Kaiser workers. The additional $3 million became necessary when the transfer was delayed by a year due to a union lawsuit over the separation and benefits.

The conference committee also approved a total of $2.2 million over the biennium for the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve, which is running out of federal funds approved in 1993 that had sustained the restoration efforts of the former Navy target island. For the first year, $1.1 million was appropriated for 15 temporary positions and $1.1 million in the second year for personnel and operations.

In the CIP budget, the panel approved $75 million for design and construction of the extension of the Lahaina bypass from North Keawe Street to beyond Puukolii Road in Kaanapali. The phase of the project had been removed from the state Transportation Department’s CIP plans last year when the department said it was focusing on maintenance of existing highways.

There also was $3.7 million for design of the Paia bypass and $20 million for rockfall and landslide mitigation on Hana Highway, which has been blocked frequently during heavy rainfall.

Kahului Airport CIP improvements totaled $103 million over the biennium with the largest project being holding room and gate improvements with a price tag of $35.7 million.

Other Maui County items in the proposed budget:

• $9.3 million for Kaanapali Beach restoration.

• $4.5 million for a new rescue and firefighting garage, terminal renovations and airfield lights at Kalaupapa Airport.

• $2.2 million for Maui Community Correctional Center fire alarm and reroofing projects.

• $2 million to replace the gym floor, expand the band choir building and build a new weight room at Maui High School.

• $1.8 million for the removal of Hana Pier.

• $928,000 for the replacement of Honolua Bridge on Honoapiilani Highway.

• $100,000 for athletic travel to and from Molokai and Hana.

Rep. Sylvia Luke, who heads the House Finance Committee, said hard choices initially were made by both the Senate and House that smoothed the process.

“When we first received the budget from Gov. David Ige, we were looking at a very different financial picture,” said Luke. “As it became clear that the state would have less revenue, we needed to cut millions of dollars from the governor’s request. We were able to do that because of the hard work of the committee members.”

Her counterpart, Senate, Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda, said that “the budget reflects a shared belief that as resources are constrained, we must focus on priority needs that can be sustained.”

“Even as fixed costs and unfunded liabilities rise, our communities look to us to provide support for the most basic and essential programs and services from homeless and health care to protecting the environment and resources for our keiki and kupuna,” she said.

The bill can be tracked at capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=100&year=2017.

Budget worksheets detailing the appropriations in the overall Executive, Judiciary and Office of Hawaiian Affairs budget bills are available on the capitol website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov/budget/2017budget.aspx.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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