Maui schools, roads, airport on track for state funds

WAILUKU — Busy hammering out the final details of a two-year, $16 billion state general budget that is expected to be sent to Gov. David Ige this week, Maui County’s state lawmakers highlighted money set to be funneled Maui County’s way for schools, highways, the airport and environmental projects.

The biennial base budget proposal, approved by a House-Senate conference committee Friday, is slated for full House and Senate votes today. It would cover fiscal years 2020-21, which start July 1.

It does not include the capital improvements projects part of the state budget, which still needs to be hammered out. The state Senate has passed its version of the CIP budget; the House still needs to pass its bill. The differences likely will need to be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee with both houses finalizing the compromise bill.

The base spending plan is headed for approval much earlier than usual, said Rep. Troy Hashimoto, who represents Waihee, Waiehu, Wailuku and Waikapu, on Tuesday.

“It’s the earliest they’ve ever passed out the budget,” said the freshman lawmaker, who serves on the powerful House Finance Committee.

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz told Civil Beat that the early approval was purposely done to leave more time for debate later in the session and to find money for initiatives sought by lawmakers or the governor. In the past, the budget has been among the final bills to pass in the waning days of the Legislature.

Maui County-related appropriations in the base budget include $61,200 for response to the invasive little fire ant; $146,000 over two years for invasive coqui frog containment; $4 million for Kahului Airport operations; projects in the $35 million for special maintenance highway projects statewide; and projects in the $60 million over two years for airport special maintenance statewide, Maui County State Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, who is vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said Tuesday.

Hashimoto also said $250,000 in fiscal year 2021 is earmarked for three operational positions at the University of Hawaii Maui College’s Maui Food Innovation Center, which also is slated for a $7 million face-lift.

“There are some pretty good things in here,” he said.

Some additions to the base budget already are wending their way through the Legislature. Keith-Agaran reported that items that have reached the conference committee include funding for operations of Maui Health System, the Kaiser Permanente subsidiary that runs Maui Memorial Medical Center and Kula and Lanai Community hospitals; for county lifeguards operating on state beaches and Kupuna Care, which provides services, such as transportation, attendant care, case management, home-delivered meals, homemaker and personal care services.

The CIP draft budget passed by the Senate includes funds in Maui County for affordable housing; public school upgrades; natural resource projects; health care services; and airports, harbors and highway work, Keith-Agaran said.

More specifically in the Senate draft is $31 million over the two years for a gym at the long-awaited Kihei high school; $14 million for a new classroom building at Paia Elementary; $8 million for a girls athletic locker room and other facilities at Maui High; and $6 million to replace a Kahului Elementary classroom building destroyed by fire.

There also is $6 million for Maui Health System capital improvements and $57 million in Kahului Harbor improvements over the biennium in the Senate draft, said Keith-Agaran.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.