The Hawaii State Legislature has voted to approve the State Budget for the upcoming FY2014-2015. The budget, which provides $6.189 billion in general funds and $12.147 billion in all means of financing, was characterized by House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke as measured and prudent.
“As mentioned throughout this session, we’ve had to deal with a changing financial landscape that clearly suggested a more measured and prudent approach to spending, especially when we looked at our long-term obligations,” said Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa), House Finance Chair and one of the budget’s chief architects. “I think we’ve done that while meeting the immediate needs of our people, including taking care of lowest wage earners, our kupuna and our keiki.”
“We’ve also continued to recapitalize our budget reserves with at least $200 million this year, and maintained significant financial contributions toward reducing our unfunded liabilities.”
HB1700 appropriates funds for operating and capital improvement costs of the Executive Branch for the second half of the current biennium, FY2014-2015, including $10 million in Grant-in-Aid (GIA) for nonprofit organizations who provide community services and over $2.3 billion in G.O. bond funding for capital improvement projects (CIP), including monies for the new Kona Judiciary Building and the University of Hawaii at Hilo School of Pharmacy.
“I think part of the challenges that our finance chairs faced this year was the misconception that we had a huge projected surplus to dole out. And the plain fact is that was just not true, as the State Council on Revenues verified in its last quarterly report,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu).
This January, there was an $844 million dollar surplus balance in the state coffers. But in March, the Council on Revenues reduced revenue projections for the current and next fiscal bienniums—amounting to $189.5 million less in FY2013-2014 and $491.8 million less in FY2014-2015.
“Despite flatter than expected projections, I think we were still able to provide for the most pressing needs of families, our schools, our seniors, the environment and our economy,” Souki said. “At the end of the day, we ended on the positive side of the ledger in both expenditures and taking care of our long term obligations.”
Other funding highlights include:
· Added four environmental health specialist positions and $96,309 for the pesticides branch
· Added $400,000 in revolving funds for operating and equipment costs for the pesticides branch
Accounting and General Services
· Added $87,071 for three positions for school repair and maintenance on neighbor islands
· Added $452,330 for six positions for delinquent tax collection
· Added $31,568 in general funds for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
Business, Economic Development, and Tourism
· Added $250,000 for the Beijing and Taipei state offices in strategic marketing and support
· Added $50,000 for establishing and fostering sister-state relationships
· Added $100,000 for the Creative Lab Accelerator Program
· Added $160,000 for aerospace industry development and a commercial spaceport license application
· $227,200 in federal funds for the Homeland Security Office to coordinate security planning and preparedness activities with all agencies
· $134,802 for charter school per-pupil allotment
· $800,000 in general funds and $2 million in federal funds for the Charter School Commission operating and administration costs
· $2 million to support school athletic activities
· $15 million for the weighted student formula, which are funds that are distributed to schools based on enrollment and are spent at the principals’ discretion
· $3 million in general funds for a pre-kindergarten program, which will be coordinated by the DOE and the Executive Office on Early Learning in the Office of the Governor
· $1.925 million for the Strive HI performance system, which supports the lowest-performing 15% of schools
· $600,000 for an educator evaluation system to measure teacher effectiveness
· $256,000 in general funds to implement a mentoring program for new teachers
· $200,000 in general funds for a contract with Teach for America
· $9,000,000 to cover the shortfall in utility costs
· $592,000 in general funds for sabbatical leave for teachers
· $685,000 for electricity budget shortfall in libraries statewide
· $200,000 to increase security services at libraries statewide
· $600,000 to maintain computers and other technological services offered by Hawaii State Public Libraries System to patrons.
· A total of $8.5 million to increase foster care funding
· $500,000 for the Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture, and Health Initiative (REACH) program to provide a framework for intermediate school after-school programs
· $1.5 million to continue the Housing First homeless initiative program
· $1,183,384 in general funds for the home- and community-based services waiver program administered by the department’s Developmental Disabilities Division
· $750,000 in general funds for statewide health information exchange infrastructure advancement and to support health information technology priorities
· $2 million for the Hilo Medical Center Primary Care Residency Program
· $185,000 in special funds for the replacement of motor vehicles at various community mental health centers
Land and Natural Resources
· $650,000 in special funds for watershed protection
· $1.3 million in special funds for information management system upgrade in the Public Land Management division
· $500,000 in special funds for Kauai fire mitigation and reforestation in the Forestry Resources Management and Development division
· $577,000 in general funds for personal services, operating expenses, and equipment in the Conservation and Resource Enforcement division officers
· Added 10 adult corrections officers, and $259,930 in general funds for 24-hour Halawa Correctional Facility suicide watch posts
· Added six adult corrections officers, and $155,958 in general funds for 24-hour Oahu Community Correctional Center suicide watch posts
· Added 20 positions and $786,718 in general funds for mental health services in correctional centers
· $835,000 in special funds for security services at Honolulu International Airport
· $6,000,000 in special funds for routine maintenance of the baggage handling and explosives detection system at the Honolulu International Airport and Kahului Airport
· $4,000,000 in special funds for pavement-marking rehabilitation at eight airports
· $7,359,000 in special funds to purchase additional Wiki Wiki buses to accommodate international passengers waiting to be transported to the United States Customs and Border Protection at Honolulu International Airport
· A total of $1.4 million for a state-wide airports safety management program
· $3,000,000 in special funds to establish a national pollutant discharge elimination system and municipal separate storm water system permit for Maui District
· $1,500,000 in special funds for Honolulu Harbor and Kalaeloa Harbor to expand the storm drain cleaning and pollution control program on Oahu and another $1,300,000 in special funds for other expenses that may be incurred under the federal Clean Water Act
University of Hawaii
· $600,000 for a Model Indigenous Serving University to be expended on programs that would help native Hawaiian students succeed in they have not traditionally been successful in
· A total of $4 million for 89 campus operation and growth positions at the newly constructed University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus
· A total of $33.5 million to accommodate salary restorations and increases for University of Hawaii faculty members. Includes $14 million in special funds for salary restorations and $19.5 million in general funds for salary increases
· Increase of the special fund ceiling by nearly $46 million to support UH-Manoa campus operations and programs
· Addition of 50 positions to support UH community colleges operations
· $9,350,000 in special funds for various programs in University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine
Capital Improvement Projects
· Reauthorization of $399,000,000 of general obligation bonds to recapitalize the educational facilities improvement fund
· Nearly $700 million in total biennium appropriations for the Department of Education to address school improvements, upgrades, and renovations
· Over $110 million to the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation for critical repairs and upgrades to the state hospital system
· $390 million to address campus facilities and programs at the University of Hawaii, of which includes $100 million for capital renewal and deferred maintenance, and $57 million for health and safety projects for facilities
· $33 million for the construction of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawaii-Hilo campus
· $28.8 million for the construction of the Allied Health and Administration building at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus
Sen. Slom votes against budget
Hawaii State Senate the legislators passed HB1700,CD1, aka “the budget.” While being the only Senator to vote against the budget, Sen. Sam Slom said “It is not a budget, it is a spending bill.”
Slom pointed out that Hawaii would run out of cash in 2017.
Slom stated “we are gambling with the future of our state, with the futures of our taxpayers.”
He remarked on the State’s continued spending saying “we keep spending, hoping we will find more money from somewhere. Well, guess what, there is no more money.”
Slom pointed out that Hawaii is a state of 1.4 million people only and there are limits on the money the State can obtain.
Slom said “I urge my colleagues and the people to understand where this money comes from.”
He then admonished his fellow legislators on the Legislature continuing to allow the State to borrow money, leading to an increased debt service.
Slom suggested that, like ordinary people, this state government too should live within its means.
Slom went on to say that during the 2014 session “we did not pass one bill, not one, to make this state more hospitable to businesses and investors.”
He pointed out that the Jones Act was the major contributor to the high cost of living, saying “there is over 50 percent increased costs from this one piece of legislation.”
Slom highlighted that while Alaska, Guam and Puerto Rico had taken steps to address the Jones Act, Hawaii has done nothing.
“We need to change direction in Hawaii, and we need to do this now” Slom said.
Unlike the Governor, who is constitutionally required to balance the state’s checkbook across the state’s six year multi-year financial plan, the Legislature is only required to balance the state budget on a two-year basis.
On April 25, the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees agreed on the final version of the state budget, which includes $23.8 billion in spending in FY 14 and 15.
Although the budget has been labeled by the legislature as “fiscally conservative,” the details reveal that the budget is far from conservative, saddling future taxpayers with more debt and long-term deficit spending.
KEY FACTS ABOUT THE BUDGET (HB1700, CD1):
· It increases state debt by issuing $1 billion in additional general obligation bonds, saddling future state budgets with an estimated $55M in additional annual interest payments.
· Without any further improvements in state tax collections, the budget is projected to run structural annual general fund deficits until FY 2019.
· Under the current budget, without any economic improvements, or spending adjustments made by either the Governor or the Legislature, the general fund cash reserves will be depleted as early as FY 2017,
· In addition to the $23.8 billion state operating budget, $57 million of spending is authorized through separate appropriations bills.
“A real fiscal conservative budget does not rely on deficit spending and balances current demands and needs with the capacity to sustain them in the long run,” Slom said. “This budget does the exact opposite and fails to make the tough but necessary cuts to balance the state’s check book in the long-run. Instead taxpayers are now saddled with more debt and unsustainable deficits.”