Green proposes millions for housing, climate change in budget request

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green is asking lawmakers for $970 million in the state budget for what he calls the state's "greatest ongoing challenge."

The governor's budget request for affordable housing includes $12.5 million for the state rent supplement program, $20 million for the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to use for statewide public housing development, improvements and renovations and $40 million each fiscal year for repairs and maintenance for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands existing infrastructure.

"The state is in a strong financial position, and we need to act now to provide the relief that many people in Hawaii need," the governor said. "These budget requests in combination with my legislative proposals will immediately and directly help families, reduce the cost of living, provide essential healthcare services, and protect our climate and future of Hawaii."

The governor announced last month he wants a $100 million fund to address climate change.

Green's budget includes 13 new positions that would "support capacity for climate justice and climate change mitigation" and $25 million to finance clean energy technology and infrastructure projects.

Among the governor's education initiatives is increasing preschool access by providing $38.8 million for each fiscal year to the Preschool Open Doors Expansion.

The governor wants $15 million in 2024, plus an additional $10 million in 2025, for the Department of Education to use applied behavior analysis on students with "significant behavioral or social communication deficits," according to the proposal. Green also wants to add 25 positions in 2024 and cover 50 positions in 2025 for bilingual and bicultural school home assistants.

The governor's budget request seeks $25 million in 2024, and $20 million in 2025, to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates to 100% of Medicare, which he said would bring an additional $42 million in federal funds each year. Other health care spending would support various medical centers and $12.3 million for the Department of Health to cover increased mental health services.

Additionally, Green has asked the legislature to consider $36 million to "modernize" the state's unemployment insurance system. Another $9 million is being sought to consolidate government offices at the Kahului Civic Center on Maui to make public services all in one place.

The Council on Revenue reduced the state's general tax fund revenue projections from 6.5% to 5.5 % in fiscal year 2023 after the COR did not account for nearly $309 million in income tax refunds issued to Hawaii residents last year. Residents who made less than $200,000 a year received $300 and those making more than $200,000 received $100.

The COR increased revenue projects for fiscal year 2024 from 4% to 5% of the state's general tax fund.

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