HONOLULU — Thursday marked the end of the 2017 Legislative session, during which Rep. Dee Morikawa (D-16) said the state’s finances was a concern.
“When we first began the session, it felt like Hawaii’s economy was doing well. However, the revenue collections did not reflect that. So we knew that the budget would be leaner and many money bills would not get passed,” she said.
It’s a sentiment Nadine Nakamura (D-14) echoes.
“After the governor submitted his budget, we learned that GET collections was lower than anticipated and the Council on Revenues reduced the projected GET increase for FY18,” she said. “We started off having to work with the administration to reduce more than $300 million from the two-year budget.”
For Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, the House of Representatives approved $28 billion in spending. For FY 2018, the budget is $14.1 billion. The next year, the budget is slated to be $14.3 billion.
The budget includes funds for homelessness services. Morikawa, who is chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, said she is pleased with the achievements the committee made during the session.
“I was very honored to chair a committee that focused on the homeless, the elderly and children, and am proud of our accomplishments this year,”she said.
In 2018, lawmakers will allocate $16.6 million to help fund homelessness initiatives, which about $4 million more than the $12 million spent in 2017. Legislatures also approved $25 million for the dwelling unit revolving fund that helps developers building homes for sale and $17.6 million for public housing developments and renovations, along with funds for Habitat for Humanity.
“I believe the legislature’s greatest accomplishment this year was increasing funding for affordable housing and homelessness,” Nakamura said.
Additionally, the House earmarked $3 million for the Housing First program, which provides rapid housing placement, followed by support services and has proven successful in helping people to improve their lives
Morikawa pointed to nine approved bills introduced by the HUS committee that will promote and benefit health in the state.
House Bill 83 requires a working group be established to examine and develop safe zones for homeless people. HB 674 requires all child care providers to obtain and maintain liability insurance in order to be licensed. HB 1099 amends the definition of child abuse or child neglect to include sex trafficking.
Other notable bills that were passed this session include HB 209, which establishes a state earned income tax credit. The measure will help low-income workers to keep more of what they earn. HB 607 was also given the go-ahead, which establishes a Kupuna Caregivers Program to help families find care for elders while they’re in the workforce. Hawaii is the only state to offer the program.
The CIP budget for Hawaii over the next two years was also approved during the Legislative session. For FY 2018, the budget is $1.9 billion and $926 million for FY 2019.
Kauai representatives secured $167.5 million in CIP funds for the Garden Isle.
The two largest single amounts were in transportation: $67.6 million for rehabilitation and replacement projects along Kuhio Highway and $42.6 million for Lihue Airport improvements, including land acquisition and ticket and lobby holdroom improvements.
“CIP projects for District 16 are on-going projects like the Hanapepe and Omao bridges,” Morikawa said.
An added $1 million that was secured during the session will be for plans, design and construction for development of Hawaiian homes, Hanapepe residential subdivision and another $1 million will go to the design and construction of new backstop, dugouts, lighting and grand stand at the Waimea High School Baseball/Football field, she said.
Grant in aids for District 16 were awarded to Hui O Laka for $25,000 and Kauai Habitat for Humanity for $500,000, Morikawa said.
The House of Representatives passed 233 bills during the session, including measures to provide college tuition for qualifying students, fund new schools and heat abatement in classrooms, according to a release from the House of Representatives.
To fight the threat of invasive species, bills were passed to monitor the rose-ringed parakeet on Kauai, to eliminate the little fire ant and for continued funding to battle against rapid ohia death, according to the release.
“I’m pleased that a bill I introduced, the rose-ringed parakeet bill, passed this session,” Nakamura said. “We received funding to assist to help reduce the population of rose-ringed parakeets on Kauai. Although we didn’t receive the full amount requested, it’s a start and I will continue to seek funding to help to eradicate this invasive species.”
In agriculture, lawmakers passed HB 1475 to broaden commercial operations permitted on agricultural land and allow farmers’ markets and food hubs on ag land. The measure also allows on-farm sales of produce and value-added products, a critical source of additional income for small farms.
The House also voted to select Rep. Scott Saiki as the new House Speaker following the resignation of Speaker Joe Souki.
“Rep. Souki has been a mentor and friend for many of us in the house. He taught us what it means to serve the people of Hawaii with honor, passion and pride,” Saiki said. “He has left his mark on the state and in these halls that will never be erased. I want to thank him for his service, for his words of wisdom and his guidance.”