The Office of Hawaiian Affairs would continue to get state support and have access to some of its money this year under a proposal that won approval by a Senate panel Friday morning.

On Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee cut state funding for OHA from $2.5 million to $1.6 million in each of the next two fiscal years.

Brendon Lee and Dan Ahuna, two members of OHA’s Board of Trustees, took issue with the budget cuts.

“While OHA can appreciate the financial predicament the Legislature is in with the loss of revenue due to COVID-19, once again Native Hawaiians are being asked to sacrifice for the State’s benefit while the State ignores Native Hawaiian rights and Native Hawaiian attempts at equity,” Lee and Ahuna said in a statement at the time.

OHA Board of Trustees Chair Carmen Hulu Lindsey addresses the Senate Ways and Means Committee Friday. Screenshot

But on Friday, WAM reconsidered House Bill 204, the OHA budget bill. While the latest draft doesn’t restore general funds for OHA’s administrative costs, it does set aside more than $2 million for beneficiary advocacy in the next two fiscal years.

In addition, OHA is still expected to have more than $6.4 million in trust fund money to spend in each of the next two fiscal years.

The Senate committee also made changes to the measure that would allow OHA to access some of its general funds for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The office has been unable to touch those state monies because of a state audit of the office that has not been completed.

The committee instead decided that an audit of OHA’s LLCs from 2019 would satisfy the audit requirement. The senators also set aside $200,000 for a follow-up report on how OHA is spending its money.

The unfinished state audit has been of concern for House Speaker Scott Saiki and a working group tasked with reviewing the auditor’s performance. The group said last week that Les Kondo, the state auditor, tried to go beyond the scope of the original audit requested by lawmakers.

Kondo says that the audit has been delayed because OHA’s trustees refused to cooperate. In February 2020, OHA sued Kondo over the incomplete audit.

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