LOS ANGELES — Hawaii Gov. David Ige's $13 billion supplemental budget proposes increasing general obligation bond issuance by $891.8 million in fiscal 2017 to support $1.8 billion in capital projects.
Hawaii operates on a biennial budget schedule in which lawmakers make targeted changes during supplemental budget years. Lawmakers approved a $26 billion two-year budget in May.
Ige's supplemental budget would speed payments to decrease retiree healthcare liability and bolster reserves.
It also seeks to restore program funding and fund projects that drive economic growth.
"While resources are available, we must take steps to strengthen the state's fiscal foundation by increasing our OPEB payments, increasing our reserves and broadening our economic base," Ige said in his budget address.
Years of uncertainty following the recession depleted essential state programs, Ige said.
"We can no longer put off funding important programs that have long been passed over," he said.
Ige's budget, released Dec. 21, would maintain the current GO bond appropriation level at $640.6 million for fiscal year 2016, but increase it to $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2017.
Nearly half of the total, $314 million would go for K-12 school projects and the University of Hawaii. In Hawaii, K-12 Schools are entirely funded and operated by the state government.
Ige also budgeted $85 million in GO funding for prison projects.
The budget also proposes issuing $350 million in revenue bonds combined with $50 million in federal funds and $2,000 in private funds for improvements to modernize Honolulu harbor.
It also allocates $129 million in revenue bonds for Honolulu International Airport and $50 million for a new customs station at Kona International Airport. Ige wants to open an international port of entry at Kona to draw more tourists to Hawaii's Big Island.
The budget puts the state on a track to spend $300 million more from the general treasury next year than it will collect in taxes or other revenues, but Ige said Hawaii had an $828 million cash surplus at the end of the last fiscal year that can be used to help cover his spending plan.
His budget also sets aside $408 million next year to cover future retiree healthcare costs in addition to $360 million the state has already budgeted.
Under Ige's proposal, the administration would pay retiree medical costs, or other post-employment benefits, at the 100% level beginning in fiscal year 2017, rather than by fiscal 2019 as previously approved by lawmakers.
Ige said the ramped up schedule on funding retiree healthcare costs along with proposed increases to reserves will help to ensure the state's fiscal stability in future economic downturns.
The idea is to act aggressively while the economy is healthy to pay down debts to fund employee retirement obligations, Ige said.
"This is the part of my work that is not glamorous or exciting; it is however the only responsible act to take," he said.