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University of Hawaii asks lawmakers for an additional $75 million

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

Last year, the Legislature passed a budget that eliminated $47 million in general funds from the UH budget. UH experienced a 10% total budget reduction, with UH Manoa, the main campus, bearing the brunt.

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

UH also wants more funding for its separate capital improvement budget, requesting $86.5 million on top of the $102 million already appropriated by the state.

"While the global pandemic continues to hamper the operations of the university and our state, advances in medical knowledge and better economic conditions have provided hope that the worst is behind us," said UH President David Lassner, presenting his case Tuesday to a joint Senate committee meeting.

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

UH's total operating budget is approximately $1.2 billion.

Additional general funds would include $30 million for UH Manoa, which experienced 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 fund clinical nursing 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 wastewater system, $24 million for capital renovation and deferred maintenance of community colleges, $6.5 million for fascias for Leeward Community College, and $10 million for expansion of the University of West Oahu campus and development of University Village.

State departments generally do not receive all the money requested. L legislators in the coming months will analyze how much each department will receive before approving a bill that must be approved by the governor.

"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 higher education committee.

“We can say that a lot more should go to community colleges or maybe some of that money should go to nursing,” he said. "So there may be areas where some of the money is going towards those kinds of things rather than just giving them the lump sum, which is what they might be asking for." Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee, said UH could get about $50-$70 million depending on "how much we give to the rest of the departments." Also at the joint meeting of the higher education and ways and means committees, Lassner said UH classes will remain online through Jan. 31 due to the high number of coronavirus cases caused by the highly contagious omicron variant.


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