Abercrombie requests emergency funding for Medicaid, welfare program, Governor’s Office

Hawaii Independent Staff

HONOLULU—Gov. Neil Abercrombie presented former Gov. Linda Lingle’s version of the State’s budget, for fiscal years 2012 to 2013, to the State Legislature today, as required by State law. The submitted budget serves as a starting point, Abercrombie said, as changes to balance the budget and reflect new priorities will be made following the start of the 2011 legislative session next month.

“The budget I am submitting today is not an indication of agreement with the policies of the previous administration,” Abercrombie said. “To the contrary, there is a broad call from all people of Hawaii for a change in direction. However, such dramatic changes in these times of severe budgetary constraints require an open dialogue of information gathering and analysis, which cannot be completed in the two-week period between the inauguration of our new Administration and the submittal of the budget.”

The governor listed budget shortfalls based on current revenue projections by the Council on Revenues and updated budget requirements. A shortfall of $410.1 million is expected for July 2011 to June 2012, $361.8 million for July 2010 to June 2013.

Abercrombie said his administration will focus on strengthening governmental services, creating jobs, pursuing federal funding, and investing in “long-term economic and social well-being,” including clean energy, food security, technology, education, and health.

In the remaining six months of the current fiscal year—January to June 2011—the State is facing a $71.6 million shortfall because of rising costs that have not been addressed, the governor said.

“We have hit a point where it’s almost impossible for government offices to perform its most basic functions and for people to receive government services,” Abercrombie said.

The governor described what he will be requesting emergency appropriations for in January:

Medicaid. The Medicaid program has expanded over the years. The recent ruling to restore services for citizens from Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands contributes to that ongoing expansion. Additionally, the State will stop receiving federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Medicaid next year.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A time-limited welfare program for families with the goal of achieving financial self-sufficiency. Over the last several years, the program has expanded to help more Hawaii families and as a result, program costs have increased.

Operating requirements of the Office of the Governor and Office of the Lieutenant Governor. The Executive offices have essentially no funds to operate for the next six months without an emergency appropriation.