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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hawaii governor prioritizes wildfire recovery, affordable housing in veto plan

Governor Josh Green says that some of the bills passed by the state Legislature misappropriate funds away from some the state's more pressing crises.

HONOLULU (CN) — Hawaii Governor Josh Green released on Friday a list of 17 bills he may veto, a majority of which he said will maintain the state's budget as it addresses major financial hits like Maui wildfire recovery.

“This veto list reflects our need to prioritize Hawaii’s crippling high cost of living, the state’s affordable housing crisis and Hawaii’s families impacted by the Maui wildfires,” said Green in a statement.

Green stressed these priorities in his intent to veto measures like House Bill 40, which proposed allocating $300 million from the general fund to the emergency budget reserve fund and $135 million to the pension accumulation fund.

The governor said that these funds should be kept in the general fund to support Maui recovery and other major crises, rather than be moved into the state's "Rainy Day" fund — which he noted currently holds a record $1.5 billion, the largest balance in its history.

"The Legislature appropriated a lot of resources. Next year, for example, our emergency appropriation will be $221 million to handle all these issues, but to be prudent for our state, I'm doing at least a couple line item vetoes to get us to at least plus $300 million for next year," Green said in a video posted to X, formerly Twitter.

Green also signaled his intent to veto Senate Bill 3068, a bill appropriating funds for Maui wildfire recovery, due to an oversight that would eliminate funding for affordable housing projects. Green said the bill's current language might impede efforts to construct housing units for Maui residents displaced by the wildfires.

Green also addressed several other bills related to the Maui wildfire as the state nearly comes up to the one year anniversary of the catastrophe.

House Bill 2581 and Senate Bill 2512 are both on the governor's chopping block. HB2581 blocks state leaders from being able to suspend electronic media transmission during emergencies, which Green said was necessary not only for emergency communications but also needed to guard against those who take advantage of electronic media for acts of extreme violence or terrorism. He also noted that this authority is subject to federal law and is exercised with caution. Green suggested revising the bill to better balance communication needs with security concerns.

Of SB2512, for establishing notice and reporting requirements for the governor's use of public resources during emergencies, Green emphasized the need for flexibility in emergencies while acknowledging the importance of transparency.

As far as housing measures, House Bill 1763 — which would have restricted the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation's ability to forgive loans from the Rental Housing Revolving Fund and altered its usage priorities — is also up for veto. Green said he was concerned that the bill could negatively impact affordable housing construction and the self-financing capabilities of future projects.

Green said his goal for his vetoes this year is to maintain a balanced budget, "but more importantly, to achieve a healthy carryover balance of more than $300 million at the end of next fiscal year. After enacting the largest income tax break in our state’s history, strategic decisions were necessary to ensure we had a balanced budget.”

“In addition to fiscal considerations, my decisions are based on legal concerns, improving government operations and avoiding negative impacts on the public and Hawaii residents,” the governor added.

Several bills designed to strengthen Hawaii's defenses against invasive agricultural pests also faces a potential veto from Green, as pests like the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle — which target crops like coconut trees and pineapple — potentially jeopardize the island's agriculture and food security.

House Bill 2619 would task the Department of Agriculture with leading statewide efforts to control and eradicate invasive species threatening the islands' crops. Green indicated that while he supports the bill's intent, he needs more time to assess the appropriate funding levels for such an initiative.

SB572, which aims to grant the Department of Agriculture more flexibility to declare biosecurity emergencies, is likely to be vetoed. Green cited concerns that the bill would slow down harbor operations, which are critical to the isolated islands' supply chain.

Green has until July 10 to issue final vetoes. All bills not vetoed will become law by that date. The governor's office said that they will continue to work with legislators and stakeholders to address the concerns raised in these bills, potentially through revised legislation or administrative actions.

Categories / Government, Law, Regional

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