Categorized | Government, News

House Finance Committee adopts conservative budget approach


The House Finance Committee led by Rep. Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa), has passed out the proposed state budget that is scheduled for a vote next week by the full House.

HB200 HD1 appropriates funds for operating and capital improvement costs of the Executive Branch for the current biennium fiscal years FY2013-2014 and FY2014-2015.

For FY2013-2014, the bill offers $5.9 billion in general funds and $11.6 billion in all other means of financing. For FY2014-2015, it appropriates $6.1 billion in general funds and $11.7 billion in all additional financing means.

Luke acknowledged the fiscal outlook is a little more positive than it has been in the past but she said, “because we have a fiscal climate that is looking up in terms of revenue, this is actually the time to take a conservative approach to our budget picture. I realize that in the last four years we have had to cut funding to our programs and agencies because of the State’s financial crisis, but simply restoring the cuts to pre recession numbers is not the approach we are taking.”

“We need to re-evaluate what government is here for, what do we need, what can we do without. The House is taking on the challenge to develop a budget that gives us the opportunity to provide structural stability to the State’s financial plan. We want to increase transparency, efficiency and accountability in government. We want to reprioritize and restructure government services and create an evolving, sustainable and robust economy for future generations,” Luke said.

“I believe expectations for complete funding restoration plus additional funds for more projects are high, as exhibited in the Executive’s budget request to us. However, indicators from various economic forecasts show an unsteady trend in revenue. For example, while the Council on Revenues (COR) projected increases based on a robust tourism industry and expansion in the rest of the economy, it remained uncertain about the impact on tax collections due to the renewable energy credit and changes in the tax laws. Meanwhile, the University of Hawaii Research Organization (UHERO) reported last month that despite the banner year for tourism, economic growth will ease over the next two years. We are also facing the unknown ramifications of the federal government’s sequestration,” concluded Luke.

Funding highlights include:

* $7.9 million in FY2013-2014 for a reasonable rollout of the State’s Information Management and Technology Transformation Plan. The Office of Information Management and Technology (OIMT) plan is to consolidate the State’s existing information-technology infrastructure, enhance security and privacy, and develop shared services functions across state departments.

* $3 million has been provided to Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) for risk management to ensure adequate insurance coverage for natural disasters.

* Restored services and positions cut by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) by funding positions that support our local food sustainability and agricultural health. This includes 19 critical specialist and inspector positions to help control the spread of invasive species, 5 engineers for irrigation systems, and additional personnel that provide specialized testing for livestock.

* Additional support for law enforcement agencies through funding for data systems such as the Juvenile Justice Information system (JJIS), Automated Fingerprint Recognition System (AFIS), and Facial Recognition System (FRS).

* $1.1 million for the State Library System to purchase additional books and e-books.

* A total of almost $2 million to support for the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative to meet the State’s goal of using 70% clean energy by the year 2030.

* To address the issues that encompass the State’s growing Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) unfunded liability, $205.5 million over the next two years has been infused into Other Post Employment Benefits (OPED).

* $306,461 in additional support for the Mortgage Foreclosure Dispute Resolution Program to reflect the increase in mortgage fraud and other disputes between lenders and owners.

* $650,000 to update and address issues with the State’s tsunami warning siren system.

* Support for our local students by providing to the Department of Education (DOE) an additional $12.9 million for the Weighted Student Formula and $1 million for the development of a Common Core assessment test in the Hawaiian language to serve students enrolled at 14 Hawaiian immersion schools across the state.

* $155.75 million in general obligation bond (GO) appropriations for public school improvements that include health and safety and electrical upgrades.

* Restored public health service positions within the Department of Health (DOH) including 8 vector control workers and $443,520 of funds to increase surveillance at our airports, 8 food safety inspectors, and 7 environmental health specialists and engineers to administer programs on environmental protection regulations. $800,000 in general funds for both fiscal years for Hale Makemae and Kula Hospital.

* $10 million annual funding for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) to carry out its duties of planning and developing Hawaiian Homelands across Hawaii.

* Significant support for the State’s largest department, the Department of Human Services (DHS), with $98 million to cover increasing Medicare costs, $1.9 million for youth and juvenile services, and 10 personnel to focus on homelessness project management.

* Provides 9 additional positions to provide security and intake services for inmates returning from out of state facilities and appropriates $8.7 million in additional funding for the Department of Public Safety (PSD) to maintain essential functions.

* A total of $3.8 million in general funds and $32 million in GO funding to the Department of Taxation (DoTAX) to upgrade its current tax system with the Tax System Modernization Project, a five-year program that will result in the increased efficiency of electronically filed taxes and tax processing.

* Funding to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for various vehicles and equipment to upkeep our airports and harbors. Most importantly, approval of all special and regular maintenance requests submitted by the Department.

* Continued support of our higher education systems with $780,000 for distance learning courses, $1 million for operating costs at the West Oahu Campus and $2 million to support the community college system in each fiscal year, and $100 million in GO appropriations for repair and maintenance of our campuses.
A Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget of $1,707,274,000 for FY2013-2014 and $912,851,000 for FY2014-2015 in all means of financing to address repair and maintenance backlogs and to develop “shovel ready” projects.

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