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Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke sees both sides of how to build the state budget

Sylvia Luke
Sylvia Luke
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Before she was lieutenant governor, Sylvia Luke served as the state House of Representatives Finance Committee chair, dealing intimately with the state’s budget.

“I still have the point of view from Finance,” Luke said Tuesday. “So you know, I look at it with a critical eye of what are some of the asks that came into the budget.”

Gov. Josh Green submitted his administration’s first executive budget this week, outlining priorities for the next two years. The state is looking at $19.4 billion over two general fund budgets, with fiscal year 2024 set to begin next July.

Since Green and Luke entered office just two weeks ago, the bulk of the work came from former Gov. David Ige’s administration.

“Of course, Gov. Green will add new things, but at some point in time, the governor may also subtract things because what he believes may not be aligned with what has been included by the prior administration,” she explained.

Now within the executive branch, Luke sees both sides of how to build the state budget.

“I think the Legislature is the one that builds the budget, so no matter how much both the governor and I want to advocate for stuff and include things in the budget, it's still up to the Legislature to include items into the budget,” Luke said. “In the end, it will be up to the executive branch to execute on the mandates placed within the budget.”

Green’s budget proposals prioritized spending federal aid and addressing physician shortages.

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Hawaiʻi House of Representatives
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Former Committee Chairs Sylvia Luke, David Ige with Vice-Chairs Aaron Ling Johanson, Scott Nishimoto and Michelle Kidani in on April 24, 2013.

Luke will submit her own budget requests in the coming weeks. She’d like to see preschool expansions with partners like the state Department of Education, Department of Human Services and the private sector. Practically, she’d like for a kindergarten assessment to be applied as children enter school to get a better understanding of where their skills are.

“It’s really an assessment of whether they went to preschool, whether they had some kind of child care, or early learning help,” Luke said. “That kind of assessment will help us guide the pre-K expansion in the future.”

Luke will also lobby to increase state subsidies for low-income families who want to send their kids to preschool or early learning facilities. The state’s preschool open doors program only covers children who are 4 years old.

“As you can imagine, that provides a significant amount of challenge to individuals, especially, when preschool services are 3 and 4,” Luke said. “You don't want to discourage parents from sending their kids on a consistent level to the same preschool when they're 3 and when they're 4.”

Expanding social services across the islands has been an ongoing topic with both Green and Luke.

“Even if I represented urban Honolulu for the last 24 years, it's really trying to figure out what services that we need to provide in the most rural communities that equate or similar to some of the services that are afforded to people living in urban Honolulu,” Luke said.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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