Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Abercrombie proposes budget increase, Obama family arriving Friday, Honolulu audit dings rail transit, NTSB to recover plane in Fuddy crash, Hawaii military gearing up to face China, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands


Hawaii Budget Director Kalbert Young and Gov. Neil Abercrombie release budget, courtesy photo
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has unveiled a $24 billion plan to run the state for the next two years that relies heavily on record surpluses. The supplemental budget request he sent to the Legislature calls for $53.2 million less spending in fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1. But he wants $183.3 million more than the current appropriation for 2015. Civil Beat.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie asked the state Legislature on Monday to expand the state's construction budget to $2.6 billion next fiscal year, an aggressive $1.8 billion increase that would improve public infrastructure but also include money to preserve prime agricultural land in Central Oahu and conserve the unspoiled shoreline around Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. Star-Advertiser.

A new pharmacy school building for the University of Hawaii at Hilo, a potable water well for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority and several other Big Island projects are included in the supplemental budget released Monday by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Abercrombie’s proposed operating budget asks for $11.8 billion for 2014 and $12.3 billion for 2015, a 2.37 percent increase. It socks away $100 million to a budget reserve fund and a hurricane relief fund during the fiscal year beginning July 1, raising Hawaii’s total reserves to more than $370 million, more than 5 percent of the state’s general fund revenues next fiscal year. West Hawaii Today.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday proposed setting aside money for less prosperous times while Hawaii enjoys a record budget surplus. The state had an $844 million surplus at the end of June, which is a record. Instead of starting new programs, however, the governor wants to focus on putting money toward financial reserves and filling shortfalls in state employee pension and retiree health care funding. Associated Press.

Governor Neil Abercrombie submitted his Executive Supplemental Budget for the Fiscal Biennium 2013-2015, along with the updated Program and Financial Plan for 2013-2019 to the state Legislature Monday. Hawaii News Now.

The Abercrombie Administration submitted its 2013-2015 fiscal biennium budget to the Hawaii State Legislature Monday, allocating over $12.4 billion over next two years. KITV4.

Leaders of the state House Finance Committee will experiment with zero-base budgeting, a concept that forces government spending to be justified annually, rather than presumed. The strategy helps prioritize government spending by starting the budget discussion at zero. Seventeen states have tried some form of zero-base budgeting in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, although no state uses it as a primary budgeting technique. Star-Advertiser.

It would be easy to write off Mufi Hannemann as politically dead after his two crushing losses — first to Neil Abercrombie in the 2010 governor’s race, and then his defeat to Tulsi Gabbard in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary in 2012. But Hannemann at age 59 doesn’t appear ready to roll over. His friends say he considering running for the 1st Congressional District seat to be vacated by Colleen Hanabusa in her bid for the Senate seat held by Brian Schatz. Civil Beat.

Environmental groups are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing the U.S. Navy to ramp up sonar testing and live-fire training off the coasts of Hawaii and southern California even though millions of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and seals, are expected to be hurt or displaced, even for short periods. NMFS approved a permit for the Navy’s five-year testing and training plan on Friday. Environmental groups, anticipating the move, filed suit in federal court in Hawaii on Monday. Civil Beat.

An additional five dozen Hawaii public school teachers have earned an advanced teaching credential this year, joining more than 100,000 teachers nationwide who have obtained the prestigious National Board certification, the state Department of Education announced Monday. Star-Advertiser.

State roundup for December 17. Associated Press.

Oahu

The now familiar signs that President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia and First Dog Bo will be arriving in Hawaii for Christmas are appearing in the close knit beachside community on Oahu’s windward side. Coast Guard officials have contacted boat owners in the area to remind them the canal and popular surf spot fronting the private beachfront homes where the President will vacation beginning Friday are off limits for 17 days. Hawaii Reporter.

The agency overseeing Oahu's rail transit project "generally" followed federal rules in its spending of nearly $14 million on public outreach. However, it must keep a closer eye on its consultants to ensure their taxpayer-funded expenses are justified, a city audit released Monday found. Star-Advertiser.

When it comes to public relations for Honolulu's $5.26 billion rail project, the city's auditor is OK with coloring books and lanyards. But paying a consultant more than a half-million dollars to spout hyper-political, pro-rail sentiments on his blog is another story. On Monday, Honolulu Auditor Edwin Young released his agency’s findings related to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's public relations and community involvement contracts. Civil Beat.

The landing of a big Air Force C-17 cargo jet on Wheeler's 5,600-foot runway was a test of piloting skill and a sign of increased Army training with the Air Force and Navy as the latter two services seek to refine an "Air-Sea Battle" concept that some experts say is aimed at an increasingly threatening China. Star-Advertiser.

Matson Navigation Co. has said it will clean up the mess it caused when a faulty pipeline spewed 233,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor, causing a massive fish kill and damaging sensitive coral reefs. But there's still a lot of uncertainty about the company’s future responsibilities for the spill. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii developers who are planning to build seven ultra-luxury condominium towers with some 200 units on what is now a parking area of Ala Moana Center, said the project is expected to create more than 300 construction jobs. Pacific Business News.

Investigators from the state Attorney General's office raided the Myron B. Thompson Academy charter school Monday morning as part of a theft investigation. Investigators hauled one banker's box after another filled with financial documents and computers from the charter school's offices on the second floor of the Richards Street YWCA in downtown Honolulu. Hawaii News Now.

A solar park in Kalaeloa able to generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes went online Monday. The Kalaeloa Renewable Energy Park is now feeding power to Hawaiian Electric Co. customers on Oahu, after four years of development and construction. The 5-megawatt solar park on a 20-acre lot next to the Barbers Point Golf Course has 21,000 photovoltaic panels. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The parent company of Queen's Medical Center officially entered into an affiliation agreement on Monday with North Hawaii Community Hospital on the Big Island. Under the agreement, North Hawaii will become a corporate entity of Queen's Health Systems on Jan. 1, similar to an arrangement between the Oahu hospital and Molokai General Hospital. Star-Advertiser.

North Hawaii Community Hospital on the Big Island will become a corporate entity under The Queen’s Health Systems, parent of The Queen’s Medical Center, under an affiliation agreement announced on Monday. Pacific Business News.

Maui

A hui of beachfront homeowners in Spreckelsville want to begin construction on rock groins at a beach along Stable Road by next spring or early summer to replace temporary sand-filled "geotubes" that were laid two years ago to slow beach erosion. Maui News.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has released $500,000 for Maui Economic Opportunity Inc.'s transportation facility on 10 acres of former sugar cane land at Puunene. Maui News.

Kauai

Should the costs of reading and servicing old electric meters — at an estimated $340,000 per year — be shared by the entire utility or remain with those who opt not to use the new smart meter technology? During a special ballot election beginning Jan. 3, all members of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative will have an opportunity to weigh-in on the issue. Garden Island.

It will stay afloat for another year. Faced with the sink-or-swim position of needing to raise enough money to keep its Olympic-sized swimming pool open, the YMCA has reached its goal, meaning swimmers will be able get their laps in through 2014. Garden Island.

Molokai

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday it plans to recover the plane that crashed off Kalau­papa last week with eight passengers aboard, including Department of Health Director Loretta Fuddy, who died after safely evacuating the aircraft. Spokesman Eric Weiss said a helicopter spotted what's suspected to be the downed Cessna Grand Caravan about 400 to 500 yards off the north shore of Molo­kai at a depth of about 60 to 70 feet. The agency initially said recovery would be unlikely because the wreckage, belonging to Makani Kai Air, was thought to be at a greater depth. Star-Advertiser.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it will try to recover the plane that crashed off the Hawaiian island of Molokai after the aircraft was spotted in the water. Associated Press.

The body of former state Health Director Loretta Fuddy was returned to Oahu on Monday. Fuddy died last Wednesday in a plane crash off Molokai. KHON2.