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Green uses line-item veto to cut more than $500M from budget

HONOLULU — Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday a lower revenue forecast has forced him to use his line-item-veto power to slice more than $500 million in spending out of the general fund budget during each of the next two years.

Lawmakers passed the budget in May at the end of the last legislative session. But later that month, the Council on Revenues reduced its outlook for the state’s tax revenue.

Hawai‘i law requires the governor and Legislature to craft their budgets based on the council’s predictions, which means Green had to find areas to cut.

For the fiscal year ending June 2024, Green chopped $71 million for a first responders campus and high-technology park proposed for Mililani. The state Department of Accounting and General Services will still get $1 million to plan for a relocation of a data center that is part of the project.

About $12 million of the planned spending for the campus was to be for the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, which currently is housed in an aging bunker inside Diamond Head crater.

Green said he agrees that the agency’s headquarters needs improvement and the state needs to upgrade its cybersecurity. But he expressed concerns that total costs for the campus could balloon to $500 million, and that Honolulu police have indicated they don’t want to use the site. He said there should be more public debate about the project.

“For something this large, everyone has to be on the same page. And I don’t want it to be hurried,” he said.

Green also cut $50 million from a $100 million appropriation for a solar energy storage loan program. Green said the state wouldn’t have been able to spend the entire $100 million in the next fiscal year.

Similarly, he reduced spending on teacher housing from $170 million to $50 million, saying the state wouldn’t be able to spend the entire amount.

For the fiscal year ending in June 2025, Green cut $500 million appropriated to the rainy day fund, which he said would still leave the fund with $1.5 billion.

Green said the budget retains spending on housing, homelessness, health care and preschool.

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D-District 17), chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said the decline in projected revenues put Green in a tough spot.

“The challenge we face with crafting the state budget is that it’s built upon ‘point-in-time’ revenue projections. From March to May, the Council on Revenues forecast dipped a total of $292 (million) and $302 (million) in (fiscal year) ’24 and (fiscal year) ’25, respectively. The reduction in expected revenues places the governor in a difficult position, requiring him to make tough fiscal calls on what can stay in the budget and what will need to wait and be worked on next session,” said Dela Cruz in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“Regarding funding for the First Responders Technology Campus, I met with the governor over the weekend to discuss the line-item vetoes. We look forward to working together during the interim to address the state’s needs to relocate and modernize our first responder’s critical infrastructure next session. He assured me he is committed to finding alternatives to address the challenges.

”I look forward to developing a path forward with the administration on determining if the land in the Mililani Technology Park should pivot and be used for indoor farming, ag-tech and value-added food production,” said Dela Cruz.


Wyatt Haupt Jr., editor of The Garden Island, contributed to this report.
Source: The Garden Island

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