Hawai'i House Democrats
Remarks of House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke Regarding HB1600 HD1, Relating to the State Budget
March 16, 2022
FLOOR SESSION REMARKS
REGARDING HOUSE BILL 1600, HD1,
RELATING TO THE STATE BUDGET,
by Rep. Sylvia Luke, Chair of the House Committee on Finance
I rise to speak in favor of HB 1600 HD1, the Executive Branch budget.
This budget includes $8.582 billion in General Funds and $16.665 billion in All Means of Financing.
To state that the last two years have been difficult would be an understatement. The State faced a budget deficit nearing $3 billion over a biennium. Thanks to the federal relief funds and the Legislature's commitment to build up the rainy day fund, we were able to salvage many of the critical social safety net programs which were planned for significant reductions.
This year, we are seeing a completely different budget scenario. After the Governor submitted his budget to the Legislature, the Council on Revenues upgraded its revenue projections twice. What we have today is an unprecedented opportunity to address many unmet needs within the state with a strategic and forward thinking approach.
I want to begin by talking about our obligation to our native Hawaiian population and honoring our Hawaiian culture and heritage.
As we announced at the beginning of this session, I am proud that this Legislature is making a significant commitment to address the long-awaited individuals on the DHHL waitlist. Although that is not incorporated within the budget, the money commitment is a part of the overall financial plan.
In addition to the $600 million set aside by the Legislature, this budget also includes $41.5 million to build an affordable rental housing project for DHHL beneficiaries, $30 million for lot development, and $5 million for repair and maintenance. Together, this is the largest appropriation in one year.
At the same time, we cannot forget the needs of the homestead communities. That is why this budget includes $10 million for homestead services.
The resurgence of native Hawaiian language has to be supported. Olelo Hawaii is an official language in the State of Hawaii and we should encourage parents who want their keiki to be educated through Hawaiian emergence programs. That education starts at the preschool level. That is why this budget includes $2.8 million including 14 positions under the Imi Loa program at the UH Hilo to begin a teaching pathway for emergent preschool teachers.
It is our responsibly to preserve and protect our natural resources and provide the means to manage our State lands.
Kahoolawe Island Reserve has made tremendous strides towards restoration of the land and cultivation of Hawaiian culture on Kahoolawe. This budget provides additional positions and $500,000 to support their good work.
At the Legislature, we have the benefit of sharing ideas and expanding on the successes within our State. Building on the good work by the community to re-envision Haena Park, this budget provides a $12,000,000 ceiling and $1.2 million to fund 28 positions at the State Parks to address destination management and upkeep of State Parks.
Part of our mission to protect our natural resources is controlling invasive species. I am proud that the House has continuously demonstrated our commitment to aggressively tackle our State's invasive species problem. This budget includes:
$425,000 to fight invasive pest species such as the coffee berry borer beetle, spittle bug, and Japanese beetle, which impact the State's coffee and ranching industries,
$900,000 to address the increasing axis deer population, primarily on the neighbor islands,
$645,000 to clear Albizia trees surrounding the State Veterans Cemetery.
$1,700,000 for rapid Ohia death response and
$1,500,000 in additional funds for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.
What is special about Hawaii is its people. We have a duty to care for the most vulnerable. This budget makes significant investments to individuals in need. I want to highlight just a few.
Time after time, we hear horrific accounts of failures within our State to care for children under the State's jurisdiction. This budget provides $2,950,036 to establish forty-eight new positions along with extensive training for personnel at the Child Welfare Services Program. However, I fear this may not be enough and we have to do better. The Finance Committee will continue to work with the subject matter chair to do what is necessary in the best interest of the children.
The Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman ensures that our kupuna are safe and getting the care they deserve. However, relying on volunteers with limited resources deprives the agency of meeting its mission. This budget provides $276K for 5 new program specialists to make sure that every island is staffed.
Criminal justice reform continues to be a priority for the House. As such, the Finance Committee did not fund the $15 million request for the construction of the new OCCC.
Rather, our focus was on re-entry. The recidivism rate among incarcerated women is 50%. In order to reverse that trend, this budget invests $5,000,000 for re-entry programing and support services at the Women's Community Correctional Center's Intake Center.
Substantial amounts of federal relief funds were used to stabilize both the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii budgets last year. This budget goes beyond just restoring federal ARPA funds with general funds for lower and higher education.
For DOE, to name a few, this budget provides:
$32.5 million to address shortage differentials to retain and recruit teachers for special education, Hawaiian language immersion, and hard-to -staff geographical locations;
$1,150,000 for classroom supplies, instructional materials, and technology to provide equity of access to students;
$1,022,499 for seventeen positions to make the pilot Special Education Teacher Mentor Program permanent;
$500,000 for Commercial Enterprises to allow high schools to expand and invest in their commercial enterprises;
$2,404,936 for eighteen positions to establish a new nursing section for the DOE to coordinate and provide clinical supervision for schools; and
$6,360,000 to furnish and equip new classrooms and school buildings across the state.
For the University of Hawaii, this budget provides:
$4,800,000 for the PROMISE program at the Community Colleges, to serve an additional 2,164 students, and
$19,360,372 for the PROMISE program at UH Manoa, Hilo, and West Oahu to serve an additional 4,882 students.
This is to ensure that money is not the barrier to higher education.
In addition, this budget made significant investment towards Title IX programs and JABSOM's graduate residency program for neighbor islands.
One item to note is the $33.3 million for broadband expansion which will be used to match over $200 million in federal funds. This is an example of how this budget sets the framework for the future. We have a lot of work to do but I am glad to be a part of this body to do that work together. I humbly present this budget for your consideration and support. Mahalo.