Hawaii state capitol

Kalbert Young

Kalbert Young, UH vice president for budget and finance and chief financial officer, shares his analysis of the 2017 legislative session to date.

The Hawaiʻi State Legislature is now entering its final month for 2017, and in the next few weeks both the House Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means will be meeting in joint conference committee to deliberate their disagreements with each other’s draft of the state budget and to eventually settle on appropriation decisions for every state department and agency.

The deliberations will be watched by all state agencies including the University of Hawaiʻi. Prior to the beginning of the legislative session, UH submitted a very lean request for additional general fund support of $28,700,000 in FY18 and $29,600,000 in FY19. All requests aligned with the four strategic directions which include: Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative, Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative, 21st Century Facilities and High Performance Mission-Driven System.

The Governor’s Executive Budget, which was submitted in December 2016, included a total of $21,900,372 for FY18 and $21,834,372 for FY19 for UH. However in early February, the governor sent down a message significantly reducing his December budget request due to the Council of Revenue’s downward forecast, and the only item which remained was $5,000,000 in each year for the UH Cancer Center.

In March of 2017, the House draft of the state budget only provided six school psychologists for a total of $600,000 appropriation, but transferred four extension agents from UH Mānoa to the State Department of Agriculture for a total of $330,000, which provided UH with a net gain of $270,000.

At the beginning of April, the Senate passed its version of the budget, which provided $3,000,000 in each year for the UH Cancer Center; $350,000 for concussion awareness; $240,800 for Heʻeia Reserve; $1,290,000 for Title IX compliance; $400,000 for positions to help with the management of UH’s capital projects; and $1,829,000 for the Hawaiʻi Promise Program.

With uncertainty in the trajectory of state tax revenues and pressure from on-going collective bargaining negotiations, it is likely that very few additional requests will be funded by the Legislature.

Since the conference committee meetings on the budget will begin shortly, below is a synopsis of how UH has fared this session.

Campus Description UH Request House Draft Senate Draft
Mānoa UH Cancer Center Support 4 positions and $5,000,000 None 4 positions and $3,000,000
System Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative 12 positions and $9,850,000 None None
System Hawaiʻi Research and Innovation Initiative 5 positions and $3,500,000 None None
System Graduate Student Salary Support $2,850,000 None None
UHCC Title IX Total request was $1,850,000 None 4 positions and $820,000
System Title IX   None 3 positions and $470,000
System High Performance Mission Driven System 7 positions and $2,800,000 None None
UHCC Hawaiʻi Promise Program $2,500,000 None $1,829,000 for the Hawaiʻi Promise Program
System Positions for Capital Improvement Projects $400,000 None $400,000 for 5 positions to assist management of Capital Projects
Mānoa Transfer out positions from CTAHR to Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture None Transfer out 4 positions and $330,000 None
Mānoa Concussion Awareness None None $350,000
Mānoa Heʻeia Reserve None None 2.64 positions and $240,800
Mānoa School Psychologists None 3 positions and $300,000 None
Hilo School Psychologists None 1 position and $100,000 None
UHCC School Psychologists None 2 positions and $200,000 None

Much of the university’s request is not included in either the House or Senate version of the budget—although, it appears the Senate was marginally more supportive of the university’s overall request than the House.

For the capital improvement projects budget, the initial UH request was for $452.6 million over the two-year biennium. That amount was reduced by the governor to $150 million in his request submitted to the Legislature in December 2016. The House draft of the budget provided $150.5 million, although that was separated into 50+ individual line itemed projects. The Senate draft provided only $62.8 million for capital projects.

The following table shows the four main categories:

  • Major projects: Whole building renovations or new structures
  • Minor projects: A UH Community Colleges only category that focuses on smaller improvements
  • Renew, improve and modernize (RIM): Projects that prioritize classrooms, laboratories and student spaces centered around improving the learning environment; and
  • Planning: Initiatives that support or deliver long-term development plans that strategically align with the core mission of the campus.
Category UH Request Governor Request House Senate
Major $201,312,000   $37,000,000 $8,000,000
RIM $226,782,000 $150,000,000 $103,533,000 $47,680,000
Minor $20,000,000   $10,000,000 $6,900,000
Planning $4,500,000     $250,000
Total $452,594,000 $150,000,000 $150,533,000 $62,830,000

Download a more detailed list of individual projects. (PDF)

Once the conference committee meetings start, much will need to be discussed, and we will need to wait for the end of session to see how the university fared. The Hawaiʻi State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 4, 2017.