HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers on Thursday passed amendments to several bills as requested by Gov. David Ige, including one that uses general funds to repay debt instead of federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Democratic Rep. Sylvia Luke, the chair of the House Finance Committee, explained that lawmakers and the Ige administration had agreed during the spring legislative session to use the relief money to repay debt, as originally outlined in HB 54. But then the U.S. Treasury Department issued guidance the day after lawmakers adjourned saying they money could not be used for that purpose.
Ige, a Democrat, vetoed the measure as a result, sending it back to lawmakers. The House and Senate each passed the amended bill unanimously, and Ige signed it into law immediately after.
Both chambers also passed an amended version of HB 1299, which repeals or abolishes various special fund accounts and transfers the fund balances to the state’s general fund.
The final version removes reference to the Milk Control Special Fund, which consists of money raised by a state Department of Agriculture fee imposed to regulate Hawaii’s milk industry.
The governor, in a message to lawmakers, said that the Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that money in funds generated from such regulatory fees may not be transferred to the general fund.
The amended bill deletes a provision to eliminate the Hawaiian Homes Receipt Fund because that fund is mandated by federal law, specifically by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.
Luke said lawmakers included the provision after the state auditor had recommended that this fund be eliminated. She asked, in remarks on the House floor, that the state auditor examine whether eliminating funds would violate federal law when he makes such a recommendation in the future.
Lawmakers also overrode the governor’s veto of HB 53, which authorizes the state to issue bonds.