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VIDEO: Gov. David Ige budget plan would boost spending, restore some pandemic cuts

  • Video by Hawaii governor's office

                                Gov. David Ige


    Gov. David Ige

Gov. David Ige today unveiled a budget ahead of the upcoming 2022 legislative session that calls for a 12.2% increase in general fund spending as Hawaii’s economy improves while doubts remain over future federal funding and the impact of the omicron COVID-19 variant.

The general fund budget would increase by $942.3 million for fiscal year 2023, for a total of $8.702 billion, under Ige’s proposal. The state’s operating budget would increase 10.2%, to $16.926 billion, in fiscal 2023.

Ige’s budget is designed to help restore $1 billion in cuts over the last two years of the pandemic, including “very painful cuts to education.”

Increased funding to the University of Hawaii system is designed to help UH graduate more healthcare workers and help fill a neighbor island doctor shortage that were magnified by COVID-19, Ige said.

He also hopes UH will produce more graduates in information technology and digital media that have seen an “explosion” in job opportunities, especially with three television series currently filming in Hawaii.

He also hopes to fund, or increase funding, to:

>> The Hawaii Tourism Authority, which the Legislature beat up on last session by cutting off its automatic source of funding. Ige unsuccessfully defended the HTA and today said that it has transitioned from a marketing organization to an agency focused on managing Hawaii’s tourism industry. The $60 million that Ige proposed for HTA also will help it focus on attracting visitors who are more respectful of the islands and interested in learning about Hawaiian culture, Ige said.

>> Restore job positions lost during the pandemic. “Given the improvement to the state’s fiscal position, we must replenish resources for programs providing critical state services that were decimated by budget reductions,” Ige said in his budget plans. “Essential positions and funding must be restored, in addition to providing sufficient funding for increases in essential operating costs, such as utilities and insurance.”

>> Increase the inventory of affordable housing, which also was exacerbated by COVID-19.

>> Expand clean energy, broad band and internet access.

>> Help Hawaii’s Department of Defense plan for COVID-19 preparedness.

>> “Transition Hawaii’s health system and economy from focusing on pandemic response to embracing a new normal that carefully reopens our islands for business and social interaction.”

>> Place $1 billion into the state’s Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund “because the federal government may not be able to assist as generously in the future,” Ige said.

The state Council on Revenues is expected to make an updated economic forecast next month, which could affect Ige’s budget numbers.

Ige said that hopes of more federal funds to Hawaii are muted because of the weekend setback for President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal which remains stalled in the U.S. Senate.

But Hawaii’s Congressional delegation supports Biden’s plans and Hawaii would be poised to compete for federal grants in areas such as child care and other social programs if Build Back Better becomes reality, Ige said.

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