A state budget memo highlights trade-offs the public will make to support the state’s response to the Aug. 8 fires.

Some $172.6 million previously appropriated for numerous public purposes such as Hawaii Convention Center roof repairs, state parks renovations and agricultural warehouses will instead be used for Maui wildfire responses, according to a memo from Gov. Josh Green to his department heads.

The document provides perhaps the most detailed picture yet of trade-offs the public will make to “support the State’s response to the worst natural disaster in its history,” as Green put it.

“The State is in the midst of ongoing response efforts to address the heartbreaking aftermath of the August 8, 2023, wildfires in Hawai‘i and Maui Counties, which caused extensive loss of life and damage to Lahaina,” the governor wrote to his cabinet on Oct. 30. “In the two months that have passed, it has become evident that the State’s resource requirements will be substantial, even with federal support.”

Luis Salaveria, the state’s director of Budget and Finance, said Saturday the money will go to cover the state’s support of wildfire recovery efforts.

A supplemental budget document shows plans to steer money from previously approved state projects to address issues arising out of the August wildfires on Maui. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

It is not clear, Salaveria said, the extent to which the money could be used for a multi-part plan to compensate victims, rebuild homes and commercial properties for those who lost them and better manage the risks of wildfires. 

Green announced the first part of the plan on Wednesday, unveiling the $150 million Maui Recovery Fund designed to compensate people who were seriously injured or families of those who died. Such victims and families will be eligible for more than $1 million each if they agree not to pursue claims in court, Green said. 

Salaveria said it was not clear if part of the $172.6 million could go to this victims’ fund.

The state, Hawaiian Electric Co., Kamehameha Schools and Maui County are expected to contribute to the Maui Recovery Fund. But only Hawaiian Electric has been willing to provide a dollar figure, saying it will put in $75 million through liability insurance proceeds.  

Kamehameha Schools on Friday said it was committed to participating in the fund but said “details of that initiative are still being worked out.”

Green has not said how much money the state will provide or where the money will come from.

“The state will be making a substantial contribution to the effort and I am in constant communication with the House and Senate leadership on the Maui recovery effort, including this recovery fund,” Green said in a statement. “We intend to provide additional details on 12/8 when I give an update on the four-month marker of the disaster.” 

In addition to providing an unknown sum to the Maui Recovery Fund, Green plans to steer $65 million to the state Department of Defense’s Major Disaster Fund.

Green’s funding changes are expected to come in a supplemental budget, which the governor is expected to present to the Hawaii Legislature in mid December.

Capital improvement projects that lose money to fire relief could still get funding, Green told his department heads. That’s because the plan would divert cash now slated for some capital improvement projects to float general obligation bonds in the 2025 supplemental budget, which could pay for the projects.

The proposed diversion of funds are listed in a revised budget document posted Oct. 27.

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