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$5.1B CIP budget focuses on projects that are ready to go

Kaanapali Beach restoration, Puunene Ave. widening on list

The proposed capital improvement project budget making its way through the state Legislature has $40 million for the widening of Puunene Avenue from Kamehameha Avenue to Kuihelani Highway. This photo was taken in March. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

A Senate committee agreed Wednesday on a $5.1 billion capital improvement project budget that includes funding for Kaanapali Beach restoration, the widening of Puunene Avenue and other Maui County projects.

After passing out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the budget is headed to the full Senate and eventually the House of Representatives. It includes funding for many “shovel-ready” construction projects that lawmakers said will help reboot Hawaii’s economy.

“Now is the time that we should be doing as many construction projects as possible, especially since we have so many repair and maintenance projects and other projects that are ‘shovel-ready’ so that we can get people working,” Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz said Wednesday during a news conference via Zoom. “That’s going to definitely have a trickle effect, especially since tourism is down.”

A House news release said that of the Maui projects included in the CIP budget for fiscal years 2020, which runs through June 30, and 2021, which starts July 1, include:

— $40 million for the widening of Puunene Avenue from Kamehameha Avenue to Kuihelani Highway.

— $23 million for minor repairs at community colleges statewide.

— $11 million for Kaanapali Beach restoration and berm enhancement.

— $9 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Leiali’i housing development and highway improvements in Lahaina.

— $5 million for the planning and design of the Maui Regional Public Safety Complex or new jail.

— $4 million for improvements to Waianapanapa State Park.

— $3 million for plans and design of a new middle school in Central Maui.

— $3 million for a ferry pier at Lahaina Small Boat Harbor.

It also includes $17 million to modernize the Department of Accounting and General Services finance systems and $10 million to upgrade the state’s outdated unemployment computer systems.

Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, who represents Central Maui and is vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said that he was “generally pleased” with the CIP budget. 

“We have projects that should help bridge our economic recovery with a blend of shovel-ready projects throughout the state and other projects that will provide work for planning, design and construction over the next couple of years,” Keith-Agaran said.

He pointed out that lawmakers secured $50 million in infrastructure investments for housing on the Neighbor Islands and $100 million for Oahu.

“We got money for infrastructure improvements for Hawaiian Home Lands’ Leiali’i project,” he said. “We will get started on making Waianapanapa a better park with new restroom facilities and planning for better management of this jewel on our island — a big priority of Senator J. Kalani English. I hope when we return in June with a better picture we can consider whether Legacy Lands funds can provide the local portion to purchase the Na Wai ‘Eha watershed.”

The state Legislature continues to meet this week to tackle a $1 billion budget shortfall that the state is facing due to major decreases in tax revenues during the coronavirus pandemic. 

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said during a news conference Wednesday that lawmakers have been able to ferret out about $1 billion in savings by cutting vacant positions and locating unused funds.

“We think for now that should be sufficient,” Luke said. “One of the things we don’t want to do is severely impact some of the safety net programs, so we are very cautious about having more severe cuts.”

She explained that lawmakers don’t want to have to resort to “furlough Fridays” as they did in the wake of the Great Recession and close down key services for mental health and homelessness.

“So the plan right now is to shore up a billion dollars of funding and put it into rainy day (fund) so that we have a better idea of what some of the crucial needs are,” Luke said. “And the plan is to return in June to allocate that billion dollars for the various needed programs.”

Gov. David Ige said Wednesday that pay cuts continue to be “the absolute last resort.”

“We continue to advocate with the federal government for additional aid to states,” Ige said during a news conference. “Aid to states to allow us to replace lost revenue, to allow us to fill budget gaps, is the No. 1 issue that each and every state across the country is facing, and we will continue to advocate for that.”

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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