Skip to content
Reading time: 8 minutes

Hawaii state capitol

Kalbert Young, University of Hawaiʻi vice president for budget and finance and chief financial officer, shares his analysis of the 2021 legislative session to date.

Kalbert Young

The 2021 legislative session has moved quickly this year, with a calendar of 55 days vs. 60 days in a typical year, online protocols for hearings and limited in-person access due to COVID-19 restrictions. Still, there are a number of measures of interest to the University of Hawaiʻi that I would like to highlight thus far, as the Legislature nears the final weeks of this year’s session.

This update encompasses the completion of the majority of the legislative calendar for hearings. With a shorter legislative session, the deadlines were also shorter than in past years. As such, I was not able to provide readers with more frequent updates at each legislative milestone as done previously.

In regards to the budget, the budget bill (House Bill 200) crossed over from the House to the Senate on March 24. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means then scheduled its hearing on the budget bill for March 29. The Senate then decked, or finalized, their version of the budget bill on April 7, and the bill returned to the House on April 9, which then begins the conference process.

The special complexities in the budget this year can best be illustrated in the following three tables to provide the macro-level and line item detail comparing the different versions of the university’s operating budget. Seeing the progression of the proposed budget emphasizes the dramatic changes in underlying assumptions regarding the state’s economy and developing federal support that have changed since the Board of Regents approved this budget request in November 2020 and the governor submitted his request in December 2020.

For all machinations of the budget, the university is likely to get less general funding over each of the next two years of the biennium. Many of the reductions are hopefully made up with federal stimulus funding—for the most part.

The following table compares the total general fund budgets for each of the campuses in the board, governor, House and Senate versions of the budget. A peculiar oddity to note in the House and Senate versions of the budget—the House moved the appropriation for the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) into Mānoa’s budget, while the Senate kept JABSOM separate, but instead separated the UH Cancer Center into a new budget program ID from UH Mānoa.

Board Governor House Senate
FY22 FY23 FY22 FY23 FY22 FY23 FY22 FY23
UH Mānoa $3,600,000 $3,600,000 ($32,000,000) ($32,000,000) ($12,708,831) ($12,708,831) ($23,867,825) ($19,801,072)
JABSOM     ($3,000,000) ($3,000,000) ($21,206,565) ($21,206,565) ($3,000,000) ($3,000,000)
UH Cancer Center (new)             $6,098,055 $6,098,055
UH Hilo $400,000 $400,000 ($5,300,000) ($5,300,000) ($5,044,105) ($5,150,000) ($4,750,000) ($4,750,000)
UH West Oʻahu     ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000) ($2,535,606) ($2,535,606)
UH Community Colleges $700,000 $700,000 ($22,300,000) ($22,300,000) ($23,000,000) ($23,000,000) $23,000,000 $23,000,000
UH Systemwide Support     ($8,478,080) ($8,478,080) ($7,992,704) ($7,992,704) ($8,147,338) ($8,147,338)
Total $4,700,000 $4,700,000 ($73,778,080) ($73,778,080) ($72,652,205) ($72,758,100) ($13,202,714) ($9,135,961)


The largest component of these different versions is a 15% across-the-board reduction to each campus’ general fund budget in the governor’s budget submission. The House retained those reductions, but offset a significant portion of them with the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the federal government. This third COVID-19 response package included approximately $1.6 billion to the Hawaiʻi state government to mitigate the impact of the economic downturn. The Senate kept those reductions with the exception of UH Community Colleges, and provided ARPA funds primarily in the first fiscal year of the biennium instead of both years.

Campus Description BOR FY22 BOR FY23 Gov FY22 Gov FY23 HDI FY22 HDI FY23 SDI FY22 SDI FY23
UH Mānoa 15% General Fund Reduction     ($35,600,000) ($35,600,000) ($35,600,000) ($35,600,000) ($35,600,000) ($35,600,000)
JABSOM 15% General Fund Reduction     ($3,000,000) ($3,000,000) ($3,000,000) ($3,000,000) ($3,000,000) ($3,000,000)
UH Hilo 15% General Fund Reduction     ($5,700,000) ($5,700,000) ($5,700,000) ($5,700,000) ($5,700,000) ($5,700,000)
UH West Oʻahu 15% General Fund Reduction     ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000) ($2,700,000)
UH Community Colleges 15% General Fund Reduction     ($23,000,000) ($23,000,000) ($23,000,000) ($23,000,000)    
UH Systemwide Support 15% General Fund Reduction     ($8,478,080) ($8,478,080) ($8,478,080) ($8,478,080) ($8,478,080) ($8,478,080)
UH Mānoa Additional ARPA Funds         $28,480,000 $28,480,000 $15,600,000 $3,533,247
JABSOM Additional ARPA Funds         $2,400,000 $2,400,000 $2,400,000  
UH Hilo Additional ARPA Funds         $4,560,000 $4,560,000 $4,560,000  
UH West Oʻahu Additional ARPA Funds         $2,160,000 $2,160,000 $2,160,000  
UH Community Colleges Additional ARPA Funds         $18,400,000 $18,400,000    
UH Systemwide Support Additional ARPA Funds         $6,782,464 $6,782,464 $6,782,464  
UH Mānoa UHERO Support (ARPA)         $1,200,000      
UH Community Colleges Hawaiʻi Promise (ARPA)         $1,300,000 $1,300,000    
Aquarium Aquarium Support (ARPA)         $1,000,000      
Total Total General Fund Reduction     ($78,478,080) ($78,478,080) ($78,478,080) ($78,478,080) ($55,478,080) ($55,478,080)
Total Total ARPA Addition         $66,282,464 $64,082,464 $31,502,464 $3,533,247


Finally, specific line items in the operating budget, including funding for athletics programs and the Hawaiʻi Promise Program, are included in the following table:

Campus Description BOR FY22 BOR FY23 Gov FY22 Gov FY23 HDI FY22 HDI FY23 SDI FY22 SDI FY23
UH Mānoa UH Mānoa Athletics $3,600,000 $3,600,000 $3,600,000 $3,600,000     $2,600,000 $2,600,000
UH Hilo UH Hilo Athletics $400,000 $400,000 $400,000 $400,000     $400,000 $400,000
UH Community Colleges Hawaiʻi Promise Program $700,000 $700,000 $700,000 $700,000     $1,300,000 $1,300,000
UH Mānoa Add (3) Positions and Funds for HIMB         $197,228 $197,228    
UH Mānoa UH Cancer Center         $4,972,752 $4,972,752    
UH Hilo Transfer-in PISCES from DBEDT         $550,000 $550,000 $550,000 $550,000
UH Hilo UH Hilo Athletics         $105,895      
UH Mānoa Additional Funds for operations             $12,880,000 $16,946,753
UH Cancer Center (new) Additional Funds for operations             $3,000,000 $3,000,000
UH Mānoa Reduce (2) Positions and Funds             ($164,394) ($164,394)
UH West Oʻahu Add (2) Positions and Funds             $164,394 $164,394
UH Community Colleges Reduce Funds for Other Current Expenses             ($160,000) ($220,000)
UH Community Colleges Add (3) Positions and Funds             $160,000 $220,000
UH Community Colleges Workforce Preparation and Non-credit             $7,500,000 $7,500,000
UH Community Colleges Post-Graduation Advising and Summer Exploration             $1,000,000 $1,000,000
UH Community Colleges Student Work-based Learning and Internship             $2,000,000 $2,000,000
UH Community Colleges Campus IT Upgrades             $4,200,000 $4,200,000
UH Community Colleges Modernization of Equipment for Workforce Programs             $1,000,000 $1,000,000
UH Community Colleges Routine HVAC Maintenance             $6,000,000 $6,000,000
UH Systemwide Support Reduce Funds             ($84,440) ($84,440)
UH Systemwide Support Reduce (4) positions and funds             ($70,194) ($70,194)
  Total $4,700,000 $4,700,000 $4,700,000 $4,700,000 $5,825,875 $5,719,980 $42,275,366 $46,342,119


On the capital improvement project (CIP) budget, UH’s board-approved request was for $288 million for FY22 and $232.5 million for FY23 to address capital renewal, progress on deferred maintenance, and funding for projects to modernize each of the campuses within UH. The House draft of the CIP budget includes $170.7 million for FY22 and $204.5 million for FY23 in general obligation (GO) bond funding for various projects. The Senate draft includes $118.3 million for FY22 and $131.8 million for FY23 in GO bond funds for UH. Unfortunately, this appropriation is insufficient for UH to even maintain status quo on the deferred maintenance, let alone improve our aging infrastructure.

Currently, UH has an estimated $750+ million in its deferred maintenance backlog, which requires a minimum annual funding of $80 million per year just to prevent it from increasing.

The following table shows the CIP budget comparison between the board, governor, House and Senate drafts:

Campus Project Title
Board Governor House Senate
FY22 FY23 FY22 FY23 FY22 FY23 FY22 FY23
UH System Renew, Improve and Modernize $110,500,000 $110,500,000 $48,500,000 $80,000,000 $48,500,000 $110,500,000 $4,300,000 $65,000,000
UH Community Colleges Capital Renewal and Deferred Maintenance $25,000,000 $25,000,000 $15,000,000 $25,000,000 $15,000,000 $35,000,000 $25,000,000 $25,000,000
UH Community Colleges Minor CIP $25,000,000 $25,000,000 $15,000,000 $21,000,000 $15,000,000 $35,000,000 $15,000,000 $21,000,000
UH Hilo Renew, Improve and Modernize $24,000,000 $13,500,000 $10,000,000 $15,000,000 $10,000,000 $15,000,000 $11,500,000 $8,300,000
UH Mānoa Mānoa Mini Master Plan Phase 2 $60,000,000   $60,000,000   $60,000,000      
UH Community Colleges Honolulu CC Technology Renovations $15,000,000   $15,000,000   $15,000,000   $14,000,000  
Aquaria Waikīkī Aquarium $1,500,000 $9,000,000 $1,500,000 $9,000,000 $1,500,000 $9,000,000 $1,500,000 $9,000,000
UH Community Colleges ADA Upgrades $14,000,000 $14,000,000            
UH West Oʻahu Renew, Improve and Modernize $3,000,000 $3,000,000         $3,500,000 $3,500,000
UH Community Colleges Windward CC Agripharmatech Bioprocessing Facility $3,000,000       $3,000,000      
UH Mānoa Central Admin Facility with Parking $4,000,000              
UH West Oʻahu Planning Projects $500,000 $500,000            
UH Community Colleges Kapiʻolani CCKokiʻo $2,500,000 $30,000,000            
UH Community Colleges Maui College Vocational Tech   $2,000,000            
UH Mānoa CTAHRWaialeʻe Research Station         $1,600,000      
UH Hilo Mauna Kea Telescope Removal (Hoku Keʻa)         $1,100,000      
UH Community Colleges Resource and Education Center             $42,500,000  
UH System CTAHR-Waimānalo Research Center             $1,001,000  
  Total $288,000,000 $232,500,000 $165,000,000 $150,000,000 $170,700,000 $204,500,000 $118,301,000 $131,800,000


A special aspect this year is the additional funding assistance for higher education from three COVID-19 response bills from the federal government:

  • CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act): Signed into law on March 27, 2020.
  • CRRSAA (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act): Signed into law on December 27, 2020.
  • ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act): Signed into law on March 11, 2021.

These bills have provided funds directly to UH for student grants as well as for institutional uses via the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). These funds were provided in all three response bills and total more than $200 million in support for UH students and operations. Additional details may be found on UHʻs Federal Emergency Relief Funds website.

In addition, ARPA provides money to the state through the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund (CSFRF), which gives $1.6 billion to Hawaiʻi. These CSFRF funds are also being appropriated by the Legislature in the budget bill.

UH Mānoa $20,576,671 $31,009,066 $53,008,726 $104,594,463
UH Hilo $5,686,028 $8,984,880 $15,637,832 $30,308,740
UH West Oʻahu $2,633,257 $5,098,044 $9,005,645 $16,736,946
Hawaiʻi CC $2,164,327 $4,537,093 $8,008,451 $14,709,871
Honolulu CC $2,048,215 $4,421,511 $7,563,787 $14,033,513
Kapiʻolani CC $3,723,344 $7,757,117 $13,414,485 $24,894,946
Kauaʻi CC $1,008,208 $2,242,104 $3,874,089 $7,124,401
Leeward CC $3,843,313 $8,364,608 $14,519,261 $26,727,182
UH Maui College $2,229,317 $4,703,035 $8,297,678 $15,230,030
Windward CC $1,017,851 $2,466,094 $4,298,126 $7,782,071
Total $44,930,531 $79,583,552 $137,628,079 $262,142,162


UH legislative package

UH submitted a number of bills for consideration this session. Two of those measures would help diversify the state’s economy and advance UH’s ability to encourage technology transfer and commercialization of university intellectual properties. These could help to mitigate our state’s reliance on the tourism industry by spurring increased entrepreneurship in other sectors. The intent of the measures was to remove “sunset provisions” that limit the duration of UH’s express statutory authority for its faculty and staff to engage in various programs and activities to support the innovation and commercialization of UH-based technologies.

Another measure which UH is closely monitoring will permanently reinstate the president as the chief procurement officer for contracts for construction and construction-related professional services. This will allow UH to continue to efficiently conduct its construction procurements and deliver high-quality construction projects on-time and within budget.

Next steps

There is a little over two weeks left before the Legislature concludes and a little over a week of opportunity for conference committee deliberations. Your UH administration, alumni association members, members of the faculty and staff, friends of the university, and other affinity groups have been actively working and advocating on the measures highlighted above.

The next major deadline will be the final decking of bills on April 23. By this time, all bills must have concluded deliberation in conference committees of both the House and Senate. The Hawaiʻi State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 29, 2021.

Back To Top