Senate Committee on Ways and Means Passes Fiscally Responsible State Supplemental Budget Bill Following Changes in Economic Outlook

Following lower tax revenue projections, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means today passed a fiscally responsible HB1700 HD1 SD1, the supplemental appropriations act of 2014, which includes less spending while continuing to support education, health, human services, the environment and public safety. The bill adjusts appropriations for the operating and capital improvement budgets of the Executive Branch for Fiscal Biennium 2013-2015.

Compared to the Governor Neil Abercrombie’s budget proposal, for FY2013-2014, the Senate’s version of the bill reduces all funds by $46.1 million, inclusive of a general fund reduction of $45.8 million. For FY2014-2015, the bill reduces all funds by $167.9 million, inclusive of a general fund reduction of $158.7 million.

“As we did last year, the Senate displayed fiscal restraint. Given weak revenue projections, we made smart policy decisions by taking a conservative and responsible approach to the supplemental budget,” said Sen. David Ige, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

On March 11, 2014, the Council on Revenues reduced its projected general fund tax revenue growth, from 3.3 percent to zero percent in FY2013-2014 and 7.4 percent to 5.5 percent in FY2014-2015. Combining this with the Department of Budget and Finance’s estimated reduction of general fund non-tax revenue growth, it’s projected that there will be a cumulative total of $491.8 million less in general funds over the current fiscal biennium.

The bill does not include funding for certain administration requests that are intended to be funded under other appropriation measures, including joint majority package bills. Sen. Ige said that these reductions should not be counted as actual “savings.” The reductions include $33.5 million for the UHPA salaries, $1.0 million for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, and $4.9 million for Kupuna Care and other senior citizen programs.

“We wanted to take prompt action to ensure that there would be enough time in conference and continue discussions with our counterparts in the House,” added Ige.


The following are major general fund appropriations included in the Senate version of the bill:

Department of Education

    • $15.0 million for the weighted student formula;
    • $2.0 million for the Strive HI school performance improvement system;
    • $2.0 million for student athletics.

Office of Early Learning

    • $5.7 million for early learning pilot projects, including the pre-kindergarten and family child interactive learning projects.

Department of Human Services

    • $3.0 million for Preschool Open Doors;
    • $1.5 million for Housing First; and
    • $5.5 million (plus $2.9 million in federal funds) to adjust to the monthly foster families board rates.

Department of Health

    • $3.2 million for home and community based services waiver for the developmentally disabled; and
    • $1.2 million for early intervention services contracts for infants and toddlers.

Hawaii Health Systems Corporation

    • $4.5 million to replace lost federal funds.

Department of Land and Natural Resources

    • $1.5 million for the Conservation and Resource Enforcement Unit.
    • $2.5 million (plus $1.0 million in special funds) for the watershed program;
    • $100,000 (plus $3.9 million in special funds) for the bid to host the International Union for Conservation Congress in 2016; and

Department of Public Safety

    • $2.0 million in program costs, which may be used at the discretion of the Department for such programs as the justice reinvestment initiative;
    • $786,718 for mental health care positions; and
    • $519,860 for suicide/hospital watch positions.

University of Hawaii

    • $5 million and 89 positions for the University of Hawaii, West Oahu;
    • Adding $47 Million and $9.2 Million in revolving fund for various programs for UH Manoa;
    • $9.3 Million in special funds for various programs for the University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine;
    • $2.0 Million for various programs at UH Hilo; and
    • Adding 50 positions for community colleges

The following are Capital Improvement Project (CIP) highlights:

Department of Education: $638 million

University of Hawaii: $625 million for College of Pharmacy, restore health and safety funding, provide repair and maintenance funding

Department of Transportation

    • Reduced funding in all areas for new project, plus additional appropriations to existing projects
    • Revenue bonds reduced by $430 million from executive request
    • Federal funds reduced by $220 million from executive request


Hawaii Could Be Ground Zero For Improving NASA Communications With Next-Generation Spacecrafts

Senator Will Espero, along with officials from NASA, today held a press conference urging the approval of Senate Bill 2583 Senate Draft 1, a bill related to launching Hawaii’s aerospace industry through investment in a laser optical communications ground station. The measure is awaiting a hearing in the House Finance committee.

The purpose of the measure is to appropriate funds, on a matching fund basis, for an engineering assessment of a proposal to establish a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii to be conducted jointly by NASA and the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). The study would include site surveillance and selection, an analysis of power and cooling requirements, environmental assessments and permits, an assessment of structural pads, and an analysis of roadways and clearances for the transportation of communications equipment. NASA also has the potential of investing up to $75 million into the project.

NASA currently communicates with its spacecraft through the use of Radio Frequency (RF) ground antennas. However, the ever increasing data rate requirements from more sophisticated instruments will soon surpass NASA’s ability to support ground antennas.

For the same mass and power, space laser communications technology has the potential to provide 10 to 100 times higher data rates than traditional RF systems. In 2013, this new technology was demonstrated with the Luna Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) experiment aboard the Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, which is now orbiting the moon.

“Aerospace technology research is a rapidly growing industry that has a lot of potential here on the islands,” said Espero, who introduced the measure. “NASA’s statistical analysis of weather patterns have found Hawaii to be the best location for its first operational laser communications station in a planned global network of ground stations. The project would have an astronomical effect on the economic future, by providing opportunities for improvements in Hawaii’s broadband and fiber optic infrastructure and providing high-tech jobs for our people.”


Statement from Sen. David Ige on Nearly $500 Million in Projected Revenue Loss

“Based on the latest report, we can clearly see that almost half a billion dollars has been cut out of the Governor’s budget, which will now be in the negative in fiscal year 2015.  We will have to take a closer look at his requests and what areas we need to cut in order to end the day with a balanced budget.

“As we initially anticipated, the touted $844 million surplus has evaporated due to this latest projection.  Last year we wanted to be cautious about what we funded and ended the session supporting many pilot projects instead of establishing new programs that we may not have been able to sustain. This latest forecast justifies that approach, and had we funded those programs, we would be forced to cut them this year based on these figures.

“I do not believe that we need to dip back into the State reserves to balance the budget, but clearly any additional request by the Governor will need to be reexamined.”

Sen. David Ige, chair of the Ways and Means Committee


Statement from Senator Malama Solomon on the Release of $850,000 for State Parks on Hawaii Island

 Senator Malama Solomon, District 4 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona, today released the following statement on the release of $850,000 capital improvement project funds for the following state recreation areas on Hawaii Island:

1) Hapuna Beach Recreation Area ($500,000)
2) Mauna Kea Recreation Area ($350,000)

“I am happy that the administration has released the funds to improve our state recreation areas on Hawaii Island.

“From picnicking and camping to swimming in our oceans and hiking our mountains, our state parks allow our residents to enjoy nature and Hawaii’s unique environment.

“In order to better serve the community in my district and create a better quality of life for both residents and visitors, we must continually invest in maintaining the beauty of our natural spaces.

“My colleagues and I worked to get this funding in the budget, and I am pleased to see the state’s commitment to maintain our lands, beaches and parks, and look forward to seeing these projects get started.”


Statement from Senator Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran on the Release of Nearly $1 Million for Easter Seals’ Maui Campus

Senator Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran today released the following statement on the release of capital improvement projects grant funding for Easter Seals’ Maui location in Kahului:

“I worked with my colleagues in the state legislature to include $950,000 in funding in the budget for the construction of Phase 2 of Easter Seals’ Maui Campus because Easter Seals offers valuable services to persons with disabilities so they may live, learn, work and contribute to society. Everyone regardless of disability should be afforded the opportunity to succeed.

“I am pleased that the money to complete the Maui Easter Seals complex is being made available by the Abercrombie-Tsutsui Administration. It makes the start of Lent a time of celebration as well as contemplation.”

Statement from Senator J. Kalani English on the Release of $1.5 Million for Maui’s Heritage Hall

Senator J. Kalani English today released the following statement on the capital improvement grant funding for Maui’s Heritage Hall in Paia:

“I, along with my colleagues at the Legislature, worked to include funding in the budget for Heritage Hall during the 2013 session because we believe Maui’s diverse cultures should be celebrated and shared.

“The Portuguese and Puerto Ricans have long seeded histories on Maui and I am pleased that $1.5 million to build the Heritage Hall has been released to support the cultural collaboration between the Maui Puerto Rican Association and the Portuguese Association of Maui.

“Heritage Hall will provide a physical learning site that preserves and honors the proud history and cultures of the Portuguese and Puerto Rican people on Maui. Additionally, Heritage Hall will provide much needed public-use community meeting rooms.”


Hawaii Senate Committee Passes Bill to Establish a Commission on African American History and Culture

The Hawaii Senate Committee on Ways and Means today favorably passed Senate Bill 2598, a bill that would establish the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture.

African Americans first arrived in Hawaii in the 18th century and have since positively influenced the development and culture of Hawaii. However, their contributions are neither well known nor preserved. By establishing the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture, the people of Hawaii gain a fuller understanding of the cultural exchanges between the state and African Americans.

“Establishing the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture will allow us to honor the significance and impact of the African American experience in the state and promote awareness for Hawaii’s diverse multicultural society,” said Espero. “As Black History Month comes to a close, I am pleased that the Senate Committee on Ways and Means recognizes the significant contributions of African Americans in the state and the need to educate our citizens and visitors about them.”

The bill will go to the Senate floor for third reading and is expected to cross over to the House for consideration.


Senators Strike a Balance to Move Minimum Wage

Ways and Means Committee Approves SB 2609

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means today advanced an amended version of Senate Bill 2609, a measure that would incrementally increase Hawaii’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2017.

The changes to the measure reflect the committees desire to strike a balance between concerns from advocates on both sides of the issue to ensure lawmakers craft a responsible bill that boosts the minimum wage while not hampering small entrepreneurs.

“Since last session, I have been in support of a minimum wage increase and have been working toward an accord. We’re at the midpoint of the legislative session and there are several moving vehicles and ideas for lawmakers to consider,” said Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I’m committed to ironing out the differences in opinion on this very important policy issue and am hopeful that we can strike a balance between all stakeholders so that we can come to an agreement by the end of the session.”

Senator David Ige, with prior concurrence from Sen. Clayton Hee, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recommended the following amendments to the measure:

  • Delete the provision for authorizing the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to adjust the minimum hourly wage to the nearest 5 cents based on the Honolulu region consumer price index
  • Delete the repeal of the tip credit
  • Add a blank amount tip credit

These amendments will allow lawmakers to further the discussion, consider new proposals such as a “poverty threshold” to help protect low-income workers, and work out specifics on the amount of the tip credit.

All but one committee member voted to pass SB2609 out of committee. While discussing the recommended changes to the bill, colleagues acknowledged Ige for his work to “strike a balance” and thanked all advocates in the hearing room for their patience and participation in the legislative process.

The measure will now go to the Senate floor for third reading where, if approved, will then move to the House for consideration. Senators are expected to take this bill up during a full floor session on Tuesday, March 4.


Funds Release for Kohala Elementary and Honoka‘a High School

Senator Malama Solomon, District 4 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona, today commended the release of $7.73 million for various capital improvement projects (CIP) supporting student education in Hawaii.

Portions of these funds will go toward work in District 4, including:

  • Kohala Elementary, for American with Disabilities Act (ADA) projects, portion of $7,554,000
  • Kohala Elementary, for a special education portable, $80,000
  • Honoka‘a High School, for science lab upgrades, $100,000 for design work

“Supporting schools in my district is one of my main priorities as a lawmaker,” said Solomon. “The Legislature secured the funds for these very important projects last session and I’m glad to see the monies released so that work can get started. It’s imperative that we continue to provide students, teachers and staff with the resources for a favorable learning environment.”


For more information, please contact:
Senator Malama Solomon
State Capitol, Room 210
Honolulu Hawaii  96813
Phone: (808) 586-7335

Statement: Senator David Ige on Minimum Wage

Hawaii State Senator David Ige, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has issued the following statement regarding increasing of the minimum wage in Hawaii:

“We are committed to working with our counterparts in the House and the leadership of both chambers to ensure that we pass a minimum wage bill this legislative session. Currently, there is a bill still in conference that has carried over from the 2013 legislative session as well as new bills that have been introduced this year. I support increasing the minimum wage, and passing a bill as soon as possible this session.  We have Senate Bill 331 in conference committee and would be able to take action immediately once we have agreement on the bill.”


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