Hawaii lawmakers are working through requests to dole out $30 million to five state agencies that are running out of money to meet immediate needs.

The Attorney General’s Office, Department of Human Services, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, the Governor’s Office and the State Public Charter School Commission have asked the Legislature for emergency appropriations to see them through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Such requests are taken up individually and often move fast, unlike the overall state budget bill that won’t be hammered out until near the end of session in May.

Money in Hands

Hawaii lawmakers are working to find $30 million in emergency money for state agencies.

401(K) 2012/Flickr

The governor’s office has already received legislative approval for the extra money it says it needs.

Gov. David Ige asked for $670,400 to meet payroll shortfalls related to the gubernatorial transition, which required vacation payouts to departing employees. Some of the money will also pay “equipment leases, professional development dues, travel, protocol expenses and media subscriptions.”

The other emergency funding requests have cleared preliminary hurdles without much opposition.

Interim Attorney General Russell Suzuki said his department needs $1.1 million to cover “extraordinary litigation expenses.” 

Such requests are taken up individually and often move fast, unlike the overall state budget bill that won’t be hammered out until near the end of session in May.

The AG wants the money for expert witnesses and specialized legal counsel to defend the state in multiple class-action lawsuits, including claims filed by 2,781 people against the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

A trial in 2009 found the state liable for three breaches of the DHHL trust, but there has yet to be a decision as to how much money should go to out-of-pocket costs. The AG said it anticipates substantial amounts will be needed for discovery, experts, the court-appointed master and the task of further organizing DHHL records to defend against the claims.

The AG also needs more money to continue defending the state in cases involving the Department of Education allegedly underpaying thousands of substitute and part-time teachers tens of millions of dollars. The cases are mostly completed in circuit court but the state plans to appeal.

And the AG also wants funding to try to force Matson to pay for the damages to coral reefs and fish that occurred when one of the company’s pipes ruptured in September 2013 and spilled thousands of gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor.

Hospital System Wants $24 Million

The biggest request for an emergency appropriation this session comes from HHSC, the state’s public hospital system.

Without an extra $24 million, HHSC says its health care operations will be severely impacted. The agency notes that the money is needed because HHSC was not fully funded for negotiated and arbitrated pay raises for this fiscal year and next.

HHSC says without the money two of its 12 facilities will run out of funds for payroll and accounts payable before the end of fiscal 2015, and several others would be in an “extremely perilous liquidity positions.”

Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira told the Senate money committee Tuesday that he wants the appropriation to be broken down with more detailed information, including regional distribution details and specific collective bargaining costs.

DHS is asking for $2.51 million for its general assistance program. The department says it’s unable to maintain the current maximum payment of $348 per month for some 5,752 disabled residents who depend on the money to help cover living expenses.

A volcano is to blame for $1.73 million in emergency money requested by two charter schools, the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science and Kua o ka La.

The State Public Charter School Commission said the ongoing lava flow on the Big Island has affected enrollment as residents move away from the area and the charter school sector lacks funding sources that can be directed to emergency purposes.

While this emergency appropriation request — which comes in the form of Senate Bill 600, introduced by Sen. Russell Ruderman — purports to be recommended by the governor, the testimony on it indicates otherwise.

“The Department of Budget and Finance would like to point out that only the governor can make a recommendation for immediate passage of a specific appropriation bill,” Wes Machida, Ige’s budget director, said in his testimony on the bill earlier this month. “It is our understanding that no recommendation has been made for this bill by the governor as yet.”

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