House District 13

Lawmakers come to agreement on Office of Hawaiian Affairs budget

In News Release on May 9, 2009 at 2:29 am

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Honolulu. Rep. Mele Carroll, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and Chairwoman of the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus, thanked both House and Senate members of the Conference Committee who came to an agreement on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs budget in conference this session.

“I’d like to thank the Conference Chairs and members on HB 900 for all the work that they’ve done in understanding the workings of the Office of Hawaiian of Affairs budget and how the general fund fits into OHA’s operations,” Rep. Mele Carroll said. “I’d also like to thank them for asking the hard questions and being open to various points of view.”

House Bill 900 HD2 SD1 CD1, appropriates $2.4 million for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ operating budget, which follows the 20 percent cuts faced by other State agencies.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ mission is to mālama (protect) Hawai’i’s people and environmental resources and OHA’s assets, toward ensuring the perpetuation of the culture, the enhancement of lifestyle and the protection of entitlements of Native Hawaiians, while enabling the building of a strong and healthy Hawaiian people and nation, recognized nationally and internationally as directed by the State Constitution.

“We’ve passed a budget which provides the Office of Hawaiian Affairs with critical resources for the trustees to continue their work in making lives better for Hawaiians, and in doing so, better for all citizens of our great state,” Rep. Mele Carroll said.

In the Senate’s draft one, they added a zero appropriation of general funds to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on the basis that a windfall of $2.4 million award to the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, later transferred to the Office Hawaiian Affairs as part of a settlement award on the Hokulia case was not reported at the Senate Ways & Means Committee. The Senate felt that OHA could use these funds in place of the general funds appropriation.

Whereas the House draft two included a $2.4 million general funds appropriation which included the 20 percent cuts like other state agencies were faced with in seeking general fund appropriations for their budget.

During deliberations in Conference Committee meetings on HB 900, Chairwoman, Rep. Mele Carroll led the committee meeting and had the task of debating and defending the position of the House draft. After conferencing on this bill for five days, Chairwoman, Rep. Mele Carroll was eloquent in her delivery and accomplished her task bringing together the Senate and House conferee chairs to agree to the $2.4 million general fund appropriation. “We are very pleased with the outcome of Rep. Mele Carroll’s performance in bringing both the House and Senate in reaching a consensus and thankful to Finance Chair Rep. Marcus Oshiro for his guidance, support, and wisdom in this process,” said OHA Trustee Haunani Apoliona. “We can continue our work in improving the lives of native Hawaiians, therefore, we are improving the lives of all people.”

In addition, it was agreed that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs would transfer over $1.2 million to the State of Hawai‘i as the states’ portion of an award provided to the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation in May of 2006 in the Hokuli’a case. As we know, over the years, legislative appropriations made for Native Hawaiian legal services have been paid for equally by the State of Hawaii, through the State general fund and trust funds through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Thus, it is appropriate that any funds realized as a result of legal action taken by the contracted legal services provider be shared equally by the two (2) organizations responsible for the funding these legal services: Office of the Hawaiian Affairs and the State of Hawai‘i. These funds being paid by Office of Hawaiian Affairs will help other State programs that are in need.

“House Bill 900 conference draft one provides much needed resources in three areas: Hawaiian legal services; educational enrichment and social services for Hawaiians. Again, in these difficult times the need to provide educational enrichment opportunities for our keiki is extremely important,” Rep. Mele Carroll said. “The lack of adequate safety nets in our community makes the need for emergency assistance in housing and subsistence important for Hawaiians and all needy members of our community. Finally, allowing us to continue to provide legal services to our Native Hawaiian people will help to achieve justice and fairness in our community.”

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