State House budget approved; moves to Senate for review

Proposed funding for Maui County airport improvements, ag park, flood damage included

The Maui News

Around $60 million for improvements at Maui County airports, $10 million for an agricultural park Upcountry and $9 million for flood damage repairs at Iao Valley State Monument are in a proposed budget approved by the state House on Wednesday.

The House’s version of the budget heads to the Senate, where that chamber will make its decisions about the state’s operating and capital improvements costs. A conference committee from members of both chambers will then hammer out an overall budget. The legislative session ends in May.

The House on Wednesday passed a budget bill for $28 billion for fiscal 2017-18 and fiscal 2018-19. It is about $500,000 less than Gov. David Ige’s proposed budget of $28.5 million, which was released in December.

“This year we have proposed a very practical budget because income estimates for the state are declining,” said House Speaker Joe Souki of Maui. “The priority is to meet the budgetary needs of our core programs including education, kupuna care, homelessness, health programs, environmental protection and transportation. This budget accomplishes that goal.”

House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke of Oahu said that the state’s general excise tax collections for several months have been showing zero growth when compared to the previous year.

“On Monday, the Council on Revenues re-adjusted downwards the fiscal outlook for the next two years. This budget is the recognition by the committee that this is not the time to create new programs if they are at the expense of preserving our core services,” Luke said.

Among the highlights in the House’s budget are: $5.6 million to expand the Hawaii Keiki Healthy and Ready to Learn program; $3 million each for the Rapid Re-Housing program to keep people out of homelessness and the Housing First Program to keep chronically homeless individuals in housing; and $4 million for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council operations.

Included in the House version of the state’s biennium budget is $376 million worth of capital improvement projects for Maui County, such as improvements for airports and Iao Valley flood damage. Among the Maui County capital improvement projects that could receive money are: $39.2 million for hold-room and gate improvements and $10.5 million for in-bound baggage handling system improvements at Kahului Airport; $7.2 million for terminal improvements at Molokai Airport; and $4.5 million for a new aircraft rescue and firefighting garage, renovation of terminal and replacement of airfield lighting at Kalaupapa Airport on Molokai.