The state Department of Budget and Finance is reviewing the flow of federal funding into Hawaii to see what funds might be at risk from budget cuts or other actions by President Trump’s administration, Gov. David Ige said Thursday.
However, Ige said he learned during his recent visit to Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the National Governors Association that it may take the Trump administration some time to move forward with any meaningful reordering of federal spending.
“The devil is in the details, and the question becomes what specific changes would actually be able to be implemented in the agencies,” Ige told reporters Thursday.
“I left the capitol with the feeling that change will be slow to come, that there are lots of pronouncements by different people about significant changes in policy, and I do think that the reality of governing, the reality of being able to get the Congress to pass law changes, the reality of repealing regulations, will slow any specific impact on Hawaii,” he said.
Wesley Machida, director of Budget and Finance, said federal funding makes up about 20 percent of the state’s $13.7 billion operating budget this year. The department is reaching out to people with ties to the various federal programs “to figure out how and where we might be impacted.”
“A lot of the polices have not been issued yet, and a lot of the issues may have been discussed, but not enacted and implemented,” Machida said.
In all, the state expects to receive $2.7 billion in operating funds from the federal government this year, with much of that money flowing into the Medicaid program to pay for health benefits for the poor and disabled.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and welfare payments to families with dependent children also account for significant amounts of that federal funding, Machida said.
The public school system will receive about $250 million of that federal funding this year, and $150 million will go to the Department of Health.
The federal government will also provide an additional $376 million to the state this year for construction projects, with most of that money going to the state Department of Transportation. That sum amounts to about 15 percent of the state’s total $2.5 billion construction budget, he said.
That federal funding that is incorporated into the state budget does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal defense funding that flows into Hawaii each year.
Ige said the review of federal funding for Hawaii will include an assessment of how much funding for Hawaii is divided up among the states according to formulas set by law, and how much depends on the state attracting competitive grants.
He added that “we certainly are looking at and keeping track of those areas that would be most vulnerable. But my sense is that any changes would be incremental and not as dramatic as it might sound.”
This week Hawaii became the first state to go to court to challenge President Trump’s new ban on travel to the U.S. for individuals from six Muslim-majority nations if they lack valid U.S. visas.
The state is seeking a temporary restraining order to block the ban, and the new lawsuit marks the second time Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin has gone to court to oppose a travel ban by the Trump administration.
When asked if the state’s aggressive legal challenges to the new administration might affect federal funding for state programs, Ige replied that “from our perspective, we just believe that discrimination on the basis of national origin or religion is just flat out wrong.”
“We know that there might be other ramifications, but we trust that people will focus on what’s in the best interest of the people, of the people of the state of Hawaii as well as the people of America in moving forward,” Ige said.
Ige met with President Trump, and said his impression is that “what you see on TV is what you get. He is as he presents himself.”