© 2024 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
HPR's spring membership campaign is underway! Support the reporting, storytelling and music you depend on. Donate now

Hawaiʻi House advances $18.9M budget bill to Senate

The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives on opening day of the 2023 legislative session. (Jan. 18, 2023)
Sophia McCullough
The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives on opening day of the 2023 legislative session. (Jan. 18, 2023)

The state House of Representatives passed an $18.9 billion budget for the next two fiscal years on Wednesday. It now crosses over to the Senate.

The state’s budget vessel, House Bill 300, features additional changes to the state’s earned income tax credit, $1.3 billion to deferred maintenance projects, and more than $75 million to housing.

While the Council on Revenues decreased the state's growth from 5.5% to 2% for the next fiscal year, the state is looking at about $2 billion in surplus funds.

The extra funding, House Speaker Scott Saiki of Oʻahu said, will go toward House majority initiatives, including tax relief for low-income families, solar energy for lower-income families, destination management, affordable housing, and emergency adolescent care.

"So these are the areas that we wanted to focus on this year, we are going to use our surplus to help pay for these initiatives," Saiki said Wednesday. "One other thing that we wanted to do with our surplus was to try to use it to capitalize to capitalize areas that have not been addressed in the past."

House Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita of Maui said the budget will need more work, and the committee is in the process of vetting Gov. Josh Green’s latest proposals, which came in at the latter stages of committee hearings.

"Governor Green has his priorities, and we're going to be getting through that," Yamashita said.

In many places, the Finance Committee opted for placeholders.

"We didn't want to add any of that into the current budget, because we didn't have time to vet it properly," Yamashita said. "But as far as the priorities for the House, I think what we tried to look at was things that were taken out during the pandemic that we had to restore."

Notably, the latest draft of the upcoming fiscal budget cuts about 45% of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority’s proposed operating budget, allocating just $35 million to the tourism-management agency.

Tourism is a key component of Hawaiʻi’s revenue, but the state’s relationship with management has been rocky.

House Tourism Committee Chair Sean Quinlan of Oʻahu said the state needs to reimagine HTA’s role, and what regenerative tourism looks like.

"Please, everybody just bear with us as we try to work out what is really a complex issue. It's not as simple as well, are we going to market and how much are we going to market?" Quinlan said. "It's helping our local communities first and foremost, to deal with the impacts of bringing 10 million visitors a year. But it's also helping our tourism industry to be a better community partner, to be more sustainable and to be more responsible."

The House has also sent to the Senate a bill to establish a statewide park and trail reservation system. House Bill 953would set aside slots for local residents, and regulate visitor use.

Sabrina Bodon was Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter.
Related Stories