The 2019 Legislative Session is almost at the 1/3rd mark but work on the State Budget appears to be moving slower than before.
The House of Representatives is trying a new approach this session, providing the 18 state departments with a baseline budget and reviews by subject matter House Committees. For example, the House Health Committee reviews the State Department of Health budget. But, Representative Della Au Belatti says, state funding for County Emergency Medical Services – EMS ambulances – appears in more than one bill.
“For Big Island to add more ambulances, there’s another bill moving. So, when we start to add them in individual bills, and we don’t address them in the base budget, the budget is going to keep exploding.”
Health Department director Bruce Anderson says the Big Island funding request was not approved.
“This was two ambulances they would request were gonna cost us about $1.4 million and on-going costs something like $400-thousand. It’s a very expensive service and we felt at the end of the day that those were not needed.”
It’s the first time for House Committee members to review a departmental budget, line-by-line. It’s also a first time for Departments to have a base budget. Health committee member, Representative Joy San Buenaventura.
“Looking at the printout, I don’t see any Kupuna Care or Kupuna Caregiver monies in the base budget.”
Health Director Anderson says Kupuna Care was funded for 8.7 million dollars annually but, that funding is in the Governor’s executive budget, not the department’s.
“If we added on what was in the executive budget, we would have $8.7 million carrying forward to fiscal year 20 and 21. But again, if you look at that bill you’re looking at right now, it’s not in there.”
Representative San Buenaventura says differing testimonies on Health Department funding are revealing huge discrepancies.
(San Buenaventura) “Finance Committee’s gonna see all of what you guys are testifying and they see the huge differences between the Kupuna Caucus requests versus what you folks are actually asking and the differences are in the millions. I mean, not just hundreds of thousands. We’re talking about millions.”
(Anderson) “We’ll work with you on getting that funding clarified.”
The Department of Health Budget will be discussed again Thursday.