- Associated Press - Monday, December 21, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii Gov. David Ige has proposed a state budget that would increase spending over the next two years.

Ige wants the state to spend $30.7 billion through 2017, according to the plan he submitted to the Legislature Monday.

His proposal contains nearly $2 billion in added spending for infrastructure projects, including upgrades to harbors and airports.

“We do anticipate that there will be a downturn in the economy, so part of what we are looking for is core infrastructure…we want to be able to step forward with state-sponsored projects when that happens,” Ige said.

The infrastructure projects range from providing more air conditioning for stifling public school classrooms to improving overcrowded correctional facilities. The proposal also calls for new spending on affordable housing and homelessness.

On education, the governor’s suggested budget includes $30 million to cool public schools and $35 million for a new classroom building at the overcrowded Campbell High School.

To address affordable housing, the governor’s plan suggested $100 million for affordable housing development, which could result in approximately 1,400 new units.

He also sought $31 million to repair and renovate public housing units statewide. Affordable housing advocates had suggested a much higher allocation to address the looming estimated $800 million in repairs that the Hawaii Public Housing Authority expects to spend over the next decade.

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, said she expects the issues of affordable housing and homelessness to be priorities in the Legislature this year.

“The question on homelessness and affordable housing is not so much funding, but reevaluation of the current services provided,” Luke said.

Ige’s budget includes money to ensure that public spaces remain open to everyone, he said. It includes money to clear homeless encampments and store the valuable property that’s taken during raids. It also includes additional funding for homeless outreach and housing programs.

On airports, Ige’s proposal includes $50 million for a permanent customs station at Kona International Airport and nearly $130 million for improvements to the ticket lobby, concourse and support facilities at Honolulu International Airport.

Republican state Sen. Sam Slom was critical of the increased level of government spending Ige proposed.

“We’ve got to do things that are going to result in enhanced revenue, other than taxes,” Slom said. “We’ve got people that want to invest in Hawaii, but they want to have a clear signal that this is going to be a good place to do business.”

The governor’s proposal will be debated by the Legislature in the upcoming session. Luke says budget hearings will begin in early January.

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