The 2022 Regular Session of the State Legislature comes to a close on May 5th. After two years of severe budget restrictions due to the pandemic, the state's economic activity rebounded much faster than anticipated. The challenge this year, ironically, has been what to do with so much surplus funds without creating obligations that would cripple future budgets.
One major initiative is a $600 million appropriation to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to help reduce the eternal backlog of housing for Hawaiian beneficiaries. Also in this budget is $328 million to settle a 23 year old lawsuit brought by 2700 native Hawaiians who applied or attempted to apply for Hawaiian Homesteads and eventually won their breach of trust case known as Kalima.
Another challenge in this year's budget process was a federal restriction on how to appropriate federal recovery funds. The requirement, known as maintenance of effort, stipulates for every dollar spent, a proportionate amount must be budgeted to education. Surely, education can always justify more investment, but these federal funds cannot be used for construction projects and operational costs will continue long after these funds dry up, so finding short term investments in education was essential. Moneys were invested in the unfunded pension liabilities, and while it is not yet final at press time, a tax rebate is expected to pass.
We passed SB3330, a bill to fund a carrying capacity and management study for the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District. We all know Shark's Cove is getting loved to death, so this study is essential to implementing protections offered other marine life conservation districts like Hanauma Bay.
Another measure for the protection of our coastlines is a bill introduced by Representative Quinlan to study the effectiveness of sand burritos for shoreline protection and their impacts on sand movement and costal protection. This project is funded within the state budget.
I am also pleased that my bill to update legal protects for public participation in land decision and development conflicts, SB 3029, passed. The several resolutions described in previous posts were also adopted: three by the Senate and three by the entire Legislature.
Other capital improvement projects for the North Shore include: $26 million for the State to accept ownership of the Wahiawa Dam and related irrigation system, and to make needed repairs and upgrades; $13.7 million to realign Kamehameha Highway at Laniakea; $2.6 million for Kahuku Medical Center to continue improving its facilities; funding for a new rubber running track at Waialua High and Intermediate School; funding for building and facility improvements at Kahuku High and Intermediate; and athletic field upgrades for Castle High.
We were able to secure Grants in Aid for these very worthy operations: Hui o Hauula's Koolauloa Resiliency Center; Girl Scouts Camp STEM Center; North Shore Community Land Trust; Hoola Na Pua; and KEY Project in Hauula.