Lawmakers present record $8.7 billion state budget

0

House and Senate lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled a new state budget for next year that includes $350 million in funding for a new stadium in Halawa, but no additional planning money for a new prison.

Lawmakers also announced they are postponing plans to hire dozens more state child welfare workers and will instead provide an additional $8 million next year to contract with. local nonprofit agencies to better monitor children who are in the state foster care system or awaiting adoption.

The House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to approve a state general fund operating budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, that is $8 .7 billion. That’s a record amount, and it’s about $400 million more than Governor David Ige requested in his budget submitted to the Legislative Assembly in December.

Committees also approved a new construction budget of $6 billion on Wednesday, an extraordinary amount that House Finance Committee Vice Chairman Kyle Yamashita said will “help our construction industry and many of our departments.” to meet their needs across the state.”

House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke is flanked by Rep. Kyle Yamashita, left, and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz during a joint meeting of the conference committee on the budget of the House and Senate at the Capitol. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

The state budget has benefited this year from an unexpected boom in state tax revenue as the local economy rebounded from the pandemic, creating a budget surplus on the order of $2 billion in state money. and the federal government. However, tax revenues will not increase so dramatically in the years to come.

Finance committee chair Sylvia Luke said lawmakers were careful to earmark much of the windfall for one-time spending rather than initiatives that would have ongoing costs, like a hiring spree.

“We have to consolidate some things, but at the same time make sure that future legislatures are not overwhelmed by some of the decisions we make,” she said.

The $350 million bond financing for the stadium is expected to help accelerate the development of this project, which is progressing slowly while the state figures out how to pay for it.

The stadium is meant to be the hub of a new 98-acre Aloha Stadium entertainment district, and three development teams are competing to build and operate the new facility. The $350 million would equal the state’s share of the stadium, which is expected to cost more than $400 million.

The alleged murder of 6-year-old Isabella Kalua last year in Waimanalo underscored problems with the state’s troubled child welfare system, and House lawmakers had proposed the state hire 48 additional employees and expand training to try to improve the system.

However, Luke said lawmakers have since learned that the system would be better served by providing more money to contract services to support social workers, such as people to screen foster and adoptive families or provide services. to children in the system.

Rather than adding positions and money to the budget to increase the child protective services workforce, lawmakers are now preparing to add an estimated $8 million to Bill 2424 to bolster support for the purpose. nonprofit at the CWS, Luke said. A House-Senate conference committee is scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon on the bill.

Lawmakers also provided $50 million in grants to various nonprofits, many of which struggled financially after the state canceled all program and project grants over the past two years due to the state budget crisis triggered by the pandemic.

The new budget also includes $1.58 million to create a new office to combat human trafficking and $6.75 million to upgrade the computer system used by the state to collect and distribute child support. for children of non-custodial parents.

An additional $23 million is earmarked for a new housing subsidy program for families under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program – formerly known as Welfare – and an additional $6 million is earmarked for provide after-school services to children in TANF families.

The budget also includes nearly $26 million to restore dental benefits for adults under the Hawaii Medicaid program. These benefits were reduced in 2009 following the Great Recession.

Lawmakers also provided $33.3 million to accelerate the rollout of broadband statewide to make it more widely available, and nearly $14 million to upgrade infrastructure such as roads and utilities. in Kalaeloa.

An additional $26 million has been budgeted to upgrade the Wahiawa Dam and Spillway, while $2 million has been approved to support Iolani Palace. An additional $17.5 million is committed to subsidize and improve the Bishop Museum.

Approximately $8 million has been incorporated into the budget to support athletics at University of Hawaii Manoa and University of Hawaii Hilo.

A House-Senate conference committee also on Wednesday approved a separate measure to fund $15 million for Ohana Zones, a state-funded program that has helped more than 1,300 homeless people transition into permanent housing. The program was due to expire next year, but the proposal extends it until 2026.

Major items in the new construction budget include $20 million for planning and other work for a new elementary and middle school in central Maui, and a $355 million appropriation for a new East Kapolei High School. The state plans to seek federal funding for this project, Yamashita said.

An additional $41.5 million was allocated for affordable housing on Hawaiian land and $20 million for land development statewide. Lawmakers also earmarked $24 million for Maui Memorial Medical Center renovations and expansion.

Share.

Comments are closed.