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Thursday, March 12, 2020
UH Legislative Session Update
By News Release @ 4:45 PM :: 542 Views :: Higher Education

2020 legislative session update

From UH News March 10, 2020

Kalbert Young, University of Hawaiʻi vice president for budget and finance and chief financial officer, shares his analysis of the 2020 legislative session to date.

I wanted to provide interested readers with an update on the Legislative session and highlight some measures of interest to the University of Hawaiʻi. The Hawaiʻi State Legislature is in full swing, and we are just about halfway through the process. March 5 was the First Crossover deadline where bills had to move into the non-originating chamber (Senate bills cross over to the House of Representatives, and House bills cross over to the Senate) to continue on in the legislative process. More than 2,300 bills were introduced this session, with more than 525 of those bills dealing with UH either directly or indirectly.

Both the operating and capital improvement projects (CIP) budget bills crossed over from the House to the Senate and have been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Prior to the start of the 2020 Legislative session, the UH Board of Regents had submitted a supplemental operating budget request of $28.1 million in general funds.

The following table shows the supplemental operating budget comparison between the board, governor and the House:  TABLE

Beyond the budget bill to appropriate funding, there are other bills or measures that could be as important for the university.

Hawaiʻi Promise: UH students say ‘Dreams do come true’

The expansion for the Hawaiʻi Promise program to the four-year campuses is still moving through the legislative process in a revised measure. HB 2250 establishes the University of Hawaiʻi Promise Program Plus to provide scholarships for the unmet direct cost needs of qualified students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs in teaching, healthcare, social work or engineering at UH who commit to work for at least three years in Hawaiʻi.

As mentioned in my update in December, student mental health is a growing concern at universities across the country. The House appropriated $1.5 million in the budget for this purpose. The funding will be for contracted services and is appropriated in systemwide support for all UH campuses. For various reasons, including cost effectiveness and availability of psychologists, we would prefer if the funding were for UH psychologist positions, but are appreciative of the support.

UH seeks to train more doctors, expand medical school to Maui

Finally, we are thankful for the support we received from the House in the establishment of a new medical cohort on the island of Maui. $1.4 million has been appropriated in the House version of the budget for this purpose.

On the CIP budget, the university’s initial request was for $236.8 million for FY21 to address capital renewal, progress on deferred maintenance, and funding for projects to modernize each of the campuses within UH. HB 2725 represents the House draft of the CIP budget and includes $23.1 million for FY21 in general obligation bond funding for various projects. Unfortunately, this appropriation is insufficient for UH to even maintain status quo on the deferred maintenance, let alone improve our aging infrastructure.

In total, the university manages more than 14 million gross square feet of facilities—ranging from complex biosafety laboratories to NCAA athletic stadiums and facilities. The university has been monitoring its deferred maintenance backlog for over 10 years and has seen a steady growth in the balance due primarily to inadequate and unpredictable funding. Currently, the university has nearly $750 million in its deferred maintenance backlog, which would require a minimum funding of $80 million per year just to prevent it from increasing.

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

Next steps

There are still almost two months left before the Legislature concludes. Your UH administration, alumni association, faculty and staff and other affinity groups have been active on the measures highlighted here. All of our engagements with the legislators help to advocate and ensure that public funding for university programs can continue.

The next major deadline will be the second crossover when bills that are still alive are returned to their originating chamber. Second crossover will occur the first week of April and then followed by conference committees during the last two weeks of the legislative session. The Hawaiʻi State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 7, 2020.

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