Categorized | Government, News

House approves 2014-15 supplemental budget


For three first-term Big Island representatives, this year’s budget building process showed them how precarious the journey can be, especially when based on expectations that literally become moving targets.

On the House Finance Committee are Big Island Reps. Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau) and Richard Onishi (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano). Rep. Richard Creagan (Naalehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona) was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in January to complete the term of Denny Coffman who retired last December.

Last week, a day before the House had voted to approve the supplemental budget, the state Council on Revenues announced its latest quarterly projections, which lowered the rate of growth for the State downward to zero for fiscal year 2014 and 5.5 percent for fiscal year 2015.

The flat projection for this fiscal year was a surprise but within striking distance of the budget, in which the House Finance Committee had conservatively projected a 1-percent growth, and validated the prudent approach taken by the House.

In spite of the belt tightening by the House, the proposed budget included funding for a number of significant Big Island projects and programs, including $40 million for design, engineering and construction of the Kona Judiciary Complex, $33 million for the design and construction of a new instructional facility at the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy, $14.89 million for construction of a specialty and support classroom at Waimea Middle School, $2.8 million for the Hilo Medical Center Residency Program, $4.9 million for improvements to the lower Hamakua Ditch, and $1 million for 12 Division of Conservation and Aquatic Resources enforcement (DOCARE) officers to be deployed on Maui, Hawaii Island and Kauai.

“The House’s approval of an additional $31 million to the initial $9 million funding approved last year for design of the Kona Courthouse will help keep the project moving forward,” said Lowen, who spoke in favor of the budget bill on the House floor. “Funding for the courthouse must still go to Senate for its consideration and I will be working hard with my counterparts in the Senate to ensure that the final version of the bill does cover as much of the cost of the courthouse as possible given the statewide budget picture.”

Onishi added that the House budget also strongly supports agriculture throughout the state.

“This budget recognizes the importance of agricultural sustainability and the need to provide greater support to our farmers and ranchers,” said Onishi during the floor vote. “It includes over $9.2 million dollars to bring valuable water throughout the state via irrigation projects and $3.5 million dollars for important watershed projects for Upcountry Maui and Hawaii Island’s Hamakua districts.

“The budget supports our livestock industries and provides $3 million dollars for a Zero Waste Conversion Project, which will focus on the development of livestock feed and biofuel. It also recognizes that aquaculture plays an important role in our food sustainability, and allocates $300,000 for a Fish Feed Feasibility study. The budget also includes funding for the national Ag Corps program and for a Farm to School Coordinator.”

“The Legislature uses the budget bill to estimate and appropriate all of the funds that will be needed for all of our State agencies and programs over the next fiscal year,” said Creagan during the House discussion on the bill. “I am pleased that this includes $482,000 for new equipment for our state laboratories, almost $3 million for programs that service individuals with disabilities, and $2.8 million for Hilo Medical Center’s Primary Care Training Program — which, while based in Hilo, will provide medical training for physicians throughout the Big Island, including Kona Hospital and the Ka‘u Family Health Center.”

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