The University of Hawaii is asking the Legislature for an additional $75 million to operate its 10-campus system statewide for the fiscal year that begins July 1 after its budget was sliced last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Last year the Legislature approved a budget that axed $47 million in general funds from the UH budget. UH saw a total budget reduction of 10%, with UH Manoa – the main campus – impacted the most.

The state already has appropriated $503 million in general funds to UH in the fiscal year that begins July 1. UH is asking the Legislature for an additional $75 million to restore budget cuts made last session. That would bring its total general funds budget to $579 million. 

UH also wants more funds for its separate capital improvements budget, asking for $86.5 million in addition to the $102 million already appropriated by the state.

“While the global pandemic continues to hinder operations of the university and our state, advances in medical knowledge and improved economic conditions have provided hope that the worst is behind us,” UH President David Lassner said as he presented his case Tuesday to a joint meeting of the Senate’s Higher Education and Ways and Means committees.

University of Hawaii President David Lassner presented his request for $75 million in additional funds at a joint Senate meeting. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2018

UH’s total operating budget is about $1.2 billion.

The additional general funds would include $30 million for UH Manoa, which saw the steepest cuts last year; $2.8 million for UH Hilo; $4.5 million for UH community colleges; $2 million to fund 20 positions in the Graduate Medical Education Residency Program expansion; $21.7 million for renovation work and more than $800,000 to underwrite nursing clinical instructors at UH community colleges. 

For capital improvements, UH is seeking an additional $86.5 million, including $32 million to upgrade and renovate buildings, $11.5 million to upgrade the Waikiki Aquarium waste water system, $24 million for capital renewal and deferred maintenance at community colleges, $6.5 million for Leeward Community College fascias and $10 million for the University of West Oahu’s campus expansion and development of University Village. 

State departments generally don’t receive all the money requested. Lawmakers in the next few months will go over how much each department will receive before they pass a bill that must be approved by the governor.

WAM Chair Sen Donna Mercado Kim as she listens to UH VP of Budget and Finance Kalbert Young during presentation to the WAM committee.
Sens. Donavan Dela Cruz, left, and Donna Mercado Kim listened in as UH presented its budget request. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

“It’s hard to say what they end up with at the end of the day,” said Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, who chairs the Senate committee on Higher Education.

“We may say so much more should go toward community colleges or maybe some of that money should be placed in nursing,” she said. “So there may be areas where some of the monies may be directed onto those kinds of things versus just giving them the lump sum, which is what they might be asking for.”

Sylvia Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee, said UH could receive around $50-$70 million depending on “how much we give the rest of the departments.”

Also at the meeting of the joint committees, Lassner said that UH classes will remain online until Jan. 31 due to the high number of coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

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