Kona looks good in Gov.’s budget

  • Passenger disembark from Hawaiian Airlines' inaugural flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo in December. 2016. (Laura Ruminski, file/West Hawaii Today)
  • A Japan Airlines flight takes off from the the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole in September. (Cameron Miculka, file/West Hawaii Today)
  • Passengers board a Japan Airlines flight at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole in September. (CAMERON MICULKA/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Kona’s airport is the Big Island winner in a proposed supplemental budget announced Monday by Gov. David Ige.

The governor’s statewide approximately $14 billion operating budget is an $85.5 million increase, or about one-half percent more. In addition, $1.5 billion — a full 215 percent hike — is recommended for capital improvement projects statewide.

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The budget next goes before the state Legislature for amendments when it begins its regular session Jan. 17.

Ige said the CIP money will stimulate the economy as building construction begins slowing and interest rates for borrowing remain low. He estimated the new money would fuel 14,000 new jobs, including 5,000 direct construction jobs.

“The budget aligns with the values and priorities of this administration,” Ige said in a Honolulu news conference unveiling the proposed budget. “Evidence shows that we’ve made progress in many of our high priority areas, while being smart about managing taxpayer dollars.”

There are few projects specific to the Big Island in the budget, which covers the second year of the legislative biennium that ends June 30, 2019. But the county is expected to benefit from increased statewide spending for housing and homeless services, education and public health facilities.

Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole is slated to get the most money. The budget includes $69 million in revenue bond funds for a permanent federal inspection station.

The permanent inspection station is a commitment the state made to the federal government last year when it received permission from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow international flights with a temporary inspection facility, Ige said.

Ige is also requesting CIP funding of $6.6 million for restroom renovations and $1.5 million to design a new administration office building at the airport. And, he wants to add four full-time visitor information assistants and two airport operations controllers, according to the budget document.

“The introduction of additional air carriers, international and mainland flights, and the continued growth of the airport, warrants adding positions to manage the daily operations,” the budget states.

That’s a 521 percent increase in CIP funding and a half-percent increase in operational funding for the Kona airport.

Hilo International Airport, meanwhile, will see a 1.9 percent increase in operating funds and a 4.9 percent increase in CIP money, according to the budget. Projects include $1 million for runway and taxiway lighting and $300,000 for a noise monitoring system upgrade.

Hawaii Island will share $5 million with Kauai for site assessment studies for new community correctional centers. And, the island will share $25.8 million more with Kauai and Maui for medium security housing at community correctional centers.

In addition, there’s $2 million more for the campus development design of Hawaii Community College in Hilo, $1.8 million for guardrail and shoulder improvements, $2 million for Hawaii Belt Road, Kapehu bridge replacement, $1 million for Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening and $2 million for improvements to existing intersections and highway facilities.

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Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, said he’s met with the chief justice and expects as much as $7.5 million more for the new Kona courthouse for infrastructure and furnishings in addition to money for Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

“This 10-year cycle has seen the largest appropriations ever for West Hawaii, between Queen Kaahumanu, the courthouse and Palamanui,” Green said. “Finishing these large projects is critical so we can next fight for a new hospital for Kona.”