Hawaii Governor Allocates Budget for Maui Wildfire Recovery and Fire Prevention in First Post-Disaster Financial Plan


Monday, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said he was asking lawmakers for $425 million over the next fiscal year to help Maui heal from the wildfires in August and millions more to lower the risk of wildfires across the state.

Green hasn’t put forward a budget since August 8, when a fast-moving wildfire destroyed Maui’s ancient town of Lahaina and killed at least 100 people.

“We knew we had to help the people who lost everything on Maui.” We’re going to fix them up. At a news gathering, Green said, “We’re going to help them stay alive.”

About 12,000 people had to leave their homes because of the fire. Half of them are still staying in hotels because there aren’t enough homes on the island.

Hawaii is better known for its lush scenery of rainforests and waterfalls, so wildfires have been pretty rare there for a long time. But climate change has made droughts happen more often and with more force, which makes flames more likely on the islands.

The federal government is paying for a lot of the cleanup and temporary housing in Lahaina. It will cost more than $5 billion to fix up after the fire, according to Green. The state will pay about $500 million of that.

The governor’s plans are for the fiscal year that starts on July 1. When lawmakers write the state’s budget during the session that starts on January 17, they will think about the ideas.

These are the proposals:

  1. $200 million to pay for expected insurance claims on Maui
  2. $186 million to cover any other claims bills that come up
  3. The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is in charge of state forests, will get $10 million for fire and emergency response tools. The same department will also get $7.4 million for efforts to fight fires and keep them from happening.
  4. Twenty jobs at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency will be available to work on firebreaks, fire assessments, and other wildfire issues.
  5. $33 million, mostly from the federal government, to fix and rebuild Lahaina’s state roads

Green also wanted to spend $22 million on housing for older people in Honolulu, $10 million on building improvements for the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, and $30 million on tax breaks for families with preschool-aged children.

Gov. Wolf said he didn’t use the state’s $1.5 billion “rainy day” fund. At the end of the fiscal year, the state should have at least $500 million left over, which he said will go toward this fund. Green said that this makes the state’s credit rating better and lets it sell bonds with lower interest rates.

Hawaii hasn’t lost as much tax money as was first thought, even though traffic dropped sharply on Maui after the fire, which is one of the state’s main tourist spots.

Carl Bonham, who runs the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, said last week that the state has had several months of strong tax revenue growth, mostly because of income taxes. Excise tax and transient accommodations tax earnings, which depend a lot on how many tourists come to the state, have been weak, as expected, he said.

The state Council on Revenues predicts how much tax money the governor and Legislature will get. On January 8, the Council will meet to update its prediction.

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