Gov. Neil Abercrombie's request for state lawmakers to budget $130 million for construction of a Kihei high school stands apart as the administration's largest single capital project in its proposed biennium budget, said Kalbert Young, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance.
It is a "big ask," Young said Tuesday afternoon. And that should clearly indicate the governor's strong level of support for the project, he added.
The Abercrombie administration submitted its proposed two-year spending plan to state lawmakers Tuesday.
Maui politicians wave signs during an early November community rally seeking support for the opening of a Kihei high school in 2016. Taking part were (from left) state Sen. Roz Baker; then South Maui House Democratic candidate Kaniela Ing, who later captured the seat in the general election; South Maui Council Member Don Couch; and then Republican South Maui Rep. George Fontaine.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The Kihei high school project is not detailed in the state Department of Education's capital improvement budget, but Abercrombie specifically mentions it in his budget message to state legislators when detailing major general obligation bond funded requests.
Abercrombie said the South Maui high school funding would come from a lump sum for DOE "to improve the condition of facilities, provide program support, expand capacity and improve equity, statewide."
In a message to Kihei high school supporters Tuesday afternoon, West and South Maui state Sen. Roz Baker said: "Mahalo to Governor Abercrombie. His biennium budget sent to the Legislature contains $130 million in the second year of the biennium (budget) for Kihei high school. It is the largest single budget appropriation in his budget general obligation bond funding."
Baker pointed out that the funding is not in the bill form that lawmakers will see after the lawmaking session convenes Jan. 16.
"However, it is in his financial plan and in his request to the Legislature to fund," she said. "This is a very significant step forward."
In an interview, Baker said the governor's administration is backing full funding for the project. "It's the whole nine yards for the school, practically," she said.
Baker said the new high school has the support of not only the governor but also the state DOE.
"We're in really good shape," she said.
Freshman South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing said he was excited to hear of the governor's action.
"This upcoming session, it will be up to Senator Baker and I to protect those funds and keep the project a priority for the Legislature," he said.
The excitement soon spread to the South Maui community.
"We're ecstatic," said Andrew Beerer, chairman of the Kihei High School Action Team and chairman of the Kihei Community Association's Education Committee.
"We're definitely very excited to see that the governor has made this a priority," he said.
Beerer said Kihei high school supporters would like to see $5 million to $30 million of the funding bumped up to the fiscal 2014 budget year, "just so we can keep the ball rolling and keep it on track."
The state already has purchased 77 acres for the school on the mauka side of Piilani Highway, near its intersection with Kulanihakoi Street.
Other major Maui budget requests by the governor for fiscal 2013-14 include:
* $50 million, for a total of $85.5 million, for land acquisition at Kahului Airport.
* $5 million (and $1 million in fiscal 2014-15) for Kahului Harbor improvements.
* $3.6 million for land acquisition and design of the Kihei-Upcountry highway.
* $3.25 million for improvements at the intersection of Haleakala Highway and Makawao Avenue.
* $3 million for shoreline improvements on Honoapiilani Highway in the vicinity of Olowalu.
* $1.5 million for Hana Highway and Kaahumanu Avenue beautification from Dairy Road to the Naniloa overpass.
* $500,000 for improvements at Hana Harbor.
For fiscal 2014-15, the governor is seeking $5.4 million to rehabilitate or replace Honolua Bridge.
The governor's budget proposals gained support from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa.
"I think that the idea of putting a lot of investment into infrastructure is very good," he said.
But the mayor added that the state needs to set aside money for the employee retirement system.
"That's required, and they should be catching up to their share," he said.
In a news release, Abercrombie said his administration is taking steps to stabilize the state's financial structure by addressing long-term fixed costs such as unfunded or underfunded liabilities for public employee benefits.
"Our budget allows our state to make clear and deliberate steps in addressing unfunded liabilities that otherwise would continue to threaten our future fiscal solvency," Young said. "Rather than leaving unresolved long-term commitments for the next generation, we are fulfilling our responsibility to deal with them now."
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.