Reviewing Hawaii’s FY 2017 supplemental budget

Hawaii FY 2017 Supplemental Budget

“The Administration aims to change the trajectory of Hawaii by restoring faith in government and establishing the Hawaiian Islands as a place future generations choose to call home,” the State of Hawaii assured residents in “The FY 2017 Executive Supplemental Budget,” a Budget in Brief dated December 21, 2015.

I understand that Hawaii projects its budget several years in advance. I realize that we all have unplanned emergencies and unexpected expenses. But I’m dismayed by the size of the supplemental budget – a net request of $297.6 million in FY 2017, an increase of 4.4%. And I felt uncomfortable with how easy it was to consider a few million dollars as a “small amount.”

After reviewing the budget overview, here are some highlights from the FY 2017 supplemental budget:

The operating budget is increasing by $297.6 million. “For FY 17, total proposed general fund adjustments to the operating budget amount to a net increase of $297.6 million, or 4.4% more than the current appropriation level of $6.8 billion.” The three largest expenditures are $163.9 million for other post-employment benefits (OPEB), $31.6 million for health premium payments and health care payments, and $26.5 million for the Department of Education (DOE) Weighted Student Formula.

The capital improvements program budget is increasing by $1.8 billion. “For FY 17, total proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) adjustments amount to a net increase of $14.3 million in general funds,” plus $891.8 million in general obligation (G.O.) bond funds. The three largest expenditures are $160.5 million for a patient care facility at the Hawaii State Hospital, $146 million for affordable housing and rental housing, and $84.5 million for construction and maintenance of nine correctional centers and facilities.

Hawaii wants to hire even more state employees… The supplemental budget calls for 235 permanent new hires and 16 temporary new hires. The biggest FTE permanent staffing increases are 64 positions for the Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s multi-skilled worker program, 30 positions in the Department of Taxation, 25 positions for the Office of Enterprise Technology Services, 22 positions for the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, and 20 positions for UH’s Hawaii Research and Innovation Initiative.

While struggling to keep our promises to existing state employees. According to the supplemental budget, “A significant portion of general funds – $163.9 million of the $297.6 million requested – is to increase the funding level for OPEB (other post-employment benefits) to 100% of the ARC in FY 17.”

There are some surprising budget requests: $35 million for a new classroom building at Campbell High School (the only public school construction project singled-out). $16.1 million to “address enrollment capacity issues at public schools, statewide” (which seems unnecessary, vague, and expensive). 20 FTE permanent positions and $3.5 million to “develop an innovation-based entrepreneurial system to create high quality jobs (this sounds like a self-fulfilling program).

And some public school snark: “The DOE was unable to provide air conditioning for our public schools when temperatures reached record highs making students miserable and unable to perform to their potential,” which is balanced by a $30 million request for “heat abatement improvements” at public schools.

Unfortunately, there are planned no budget or staffing reductions.

What surprises you about the FY 2017 supplemental budget? Do you think that any department would admit that its services could be combined with another department? Would any program admit that it doesn’t need as much money as it requested?

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