State Capitol

The University of Hawai‘i is waiting for state lawmakers to decide on whether it receives funding for resources and aging infrastructure; the decision will not be made until later in the Legislative session.

Every year, UH has to prepare to “plead a case” on why it needs money from the state  – which comes from tax dollars – while competing with 16 departments. With fiscal year 2021 beginning on July 1, UH has to plan accordingly.

Kalbert Young, vice president for budget and finance and chief financial officer, is one of the administrators who meet the lawmakers.

“The pot of money available is very small and every department is going after it,” Young said. “We’re trying to make a case, we have to move people and we have to convince legislators that it’s worth while and we’re worthy. As a marathon, the hard part really is the last two-thirds of the way.”

Last month, UH submitted $28,156280 for its operating budget and $236,800,000 for capital improvements to Gov. David Ige. After his review, it was sliced down to $24,993,560 and $86,800,000

“It always works where the request is never bigger than when it comes out of the president’s office to the Board of Regents,” Young said. “It gets smaller every step of the way. It starts off at $28 million then $24 million to the gov. I guarantee when the House gets it first, it’s going to be less than that. Then it goes over to the Senate then it’s going to be less than that.”

On Dec.16, the governor sent his revised version of UH’s budget request to the state Legislature. 

Ige made it clear last year that his priorities are improving the state’s education, roads and addressing the issues surrounding Maunakea. 

Hawai‘i Promise – a scholarship program that is only offered to community colleges – would be extended for 4-years if approved by the Legislature. UH originally asked for $17,700,000, but the governor increased it to $19,000,000.

But UH does not always get what it wants. 

The buildings across the campuses may also have to wait another year. UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West O’ahu did not get funding to improve some of the buildings and parking facilities. 

Notably, $135.5 million was requested to fund improvements for UH Mānoa's Holmes Hall, Kuykendall Hall, parking and the Mānoa Mini Master Plan Phase 2. The governor did not submit funding for that request.

Mental health services also is one of the resources the university wants to improve. The lack of mental health professionals on campus is prevalent, and students often have to wait up to two months to see one.

About $2.6 million was requested for this, but the funding was revised by the governor to be allocated to the community colleges only. That might change depending on the lawmakers, who make the final decision.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donnavan Dela Cruz told Ka Leo that he supports the mental health services, but he does not know how the House feels because it is “too early to tell.”

Managing Editor

Cassie Ordonio double majors in Journalism and Pacific Islands Studies. The former Bay Area native is a transfer student from City College of San Francisco where she previously served as Editor in Chief at The Guardsman.