House budget proposal funds airports

Improvements to Hawaii Island’s two airports take up the bulk of the $436 million in capital improvement projects the state House is proposing for the island this year.

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Improvements to Hawaii Island’s two airports take up the bulk of the $436 million in capital improvement projects the state House is proposing for the island this year.

The budget, HB 1700, passed by the House earlier this month and now under Senate scrutiny, includes $115.3 million for expansion of the terminal and other improvements for Kona International Airport. The next largest appropriation, $43.4 million, is slated to go for new aircraft rescue and firefighting station and other improvements at Hilo International Airport.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a 10:30 a.m. meeting Thursday for decision-making on the budget, after making its own modifications last week. After the Senate passes its version, representatives from the two houses will meet in a conference committee to work out the final details.

Three Big Island lawmakers, all freshmen, are on the House Finance Committee.

Two popular projects, one for West Hawaii and one for East Hawaii, are the next largest funding items on the budget.

A new judiciary complex in Kona is slated to receive $40 million in the House for design, engineering and construction. When the bill crossed over to the Senate, the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee recommended the Kona Judiciary Complex be completely funded, approving the $81 million that was requested for bid award and construction, Judiciary spokeswoman Tammy Mori said Monday.

“We are very grateful to JDL Committee Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee and the entire committee for their commitment,” Mori said in an email. “We remain hopeful and value the continued support from all our legislators. We are also grateful for the support of the Big Island Bar Association, the West Hawaii community and all who have submitted testimony in support.”

“The House’s approval of an additional $31 million to the initial $9 million funding approved last year for design of the Kona Courthouse will help keep the project moving forward,” Rep. Nicole Lowen, a Democrat representing Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa and Honokohau, said when the House passed its version of the budget.

“Funding for the courthouse must still go to Senate for its consideration and I will be working hard with my counterparts in the Senate to ensure that the final version of the bill does cover as much of the cost of the courthouse as possible given the statewide budget picture,” she added.

Design and construction of a new building for the pharmacy school at the University of Hawaii at Hilo would receive $33 million in the House budget. That’s broken down into $11 million from the general fund, $11 million in general obligation bonds and $11 million in enterprise funds, to be repaid from tuition, said UHH spokesman Jerry Chang.

“We appreciate the House including in their budget $33 million for funding the construction through a combination of several different funding sources,” Chang said. “We support this approach provided it allows the College of Pharmacy to be financially sound.”

Rounding out the double-digit expenditures in the list are $27.7 million for the widening of Queen Kaahumanu Highway to a four-lane divided highway from Kealakehe Parkway to the vicinity of Keahole Airport, $15.6 million for improvements to the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, $14.9 million for classrooms at Waimea Middle School and $12 million for improvements to Mamalahoa Highway.

Rep. Richard Onishi, D-Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano, said he thinks the House was fair in its allocation of CIP funds for the Big Island.

“Within my district in particular, two schools have preliminarily been given funding for some much needed renovations to their facilities. The House budget also included funds to complete the Youth Challenge Academy upgrades and improvements at the Keaukaha Military facility which will facilitate the re-opening of Kulani Correctional Facility,” Onishi said.

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Rep. Richard Creagan, D-Kailua-Kona, Kealakekua, Captain Cook, Ocean View, Naalehu, was especially interested in health-care funding in the budget. A physician, Creagan cited funding of statewide programs for laboratories and services for those with disabilities.

“I am pleased that this includes … $2.8 million for Hilo Medical Center’s Primary Care Training Program—which, while based in Hilo, will provide medical training for physicians throughout the Big Island, including Kona Hospital and the Ka‘u Family Health Center,” Creagan said.

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