Ige signs budget but spending questions remain

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has signed the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022 after making several line-item vetoes, but questions remain as to where he will allocate the vetoed funds.

Ige vetoed all of the appropriations for the Federal American Rescue Plan Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds, saying lawmakers spent $104 million more than was allocated.

The governor also said in a statement that "the Legislature did not comply with the federally mandated Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds Maintenance of Effort (MOE) proportional funding requirement in appropriating funds to the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii."

Ige said in a news release he wants to "reallocate funds to the essential work of the Hawaii Tourism Authority." What he didn't say was how much he would give the HTA.

That has not been decided, according to Cindy McMillan, communications director for the governor.

The governor lowered the appropriations for the spillway and Lake Wilson Reservoir.

"Neither the Department of Agriculture nor the Department of Land and Natural Resources has done due diligence work that would be a prerequisite for undertaking a project of this size," Ige said in the news release. "Consequently, it is unclear if sufficient funding is provided to acquire the designated parcels; repair and expand the spillway to bring it into compliance with dam safety requirements; operate the dam and irrigation system; and operate and maintain the Lake Wilson reservoir area."

Ige also reduced funding for a First Responder Technology Campus from $51.6 million to $16.6 million.

"Planning and permitting for the campus is still in its initial stages," Ige said. "A masterplan must be prepared to subdivide the campus to make possible the participation and development of the facilities by non-state agencies. It is highly unlikely these steps can be completed before funding for the project lapses in June 2024."

Also chopped was a $177.8 million bond project for a Cybersecurity Data Center. The money would have been allocated to the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation.

"The additional land acquisition for the campus is premature," Ige said. "According to the draft environmental impact statement prepared for the campus, development is planned to take place in six phases over the next 15 years."

Lawmakers have the option of overriding Ige's vetoes but have not indicated if they would. An email to House Speaker Scott Saiki was not immediately returned.

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