KITV4: OHA pushes legislation to up payment from public land trust revenue to $78.9M a year

OHA pushes legislation to up payment from public land trust revenue to $78.9M a year
By ‘A’ali’i Dukelow, KITV4, Feb 15, 2022

HONOLULU (KITV4) — A measure in the state legislature is proposing to increase the yearly allotment of funds to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) from public land trust revenue from $15.1 million to $78.9 million.

OHA agreed on $15.1 million with the legislature as an interim amount in 2006 after years of litigation.

However, independent audits and the state’s own accounting determined the provisional amount fell short of the 20% in PLT revenue OHA is entitled to under the state constitution for the “betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians.”

Senate Bill 2122 also aims to allocate $638 million to OHA in past due claims since 2012 that were “misallocated, underreported, or underpaid.”

In 2001, the federal government decided money from airport concession revenue cannot be used to pay OHA, which, “made it very difficult because then other departments, such as the Dept. of Education, University of Hawai’i and the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources and departments that are already struggling themselves to survive, were now being asked to shoulder the shortfall created by the airport,” according to state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, who chairs the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) submitted written testimony opposing SB 2122, arguing its programs will not receive the funding they need if they were required to pay OHA additional revenue.

“In addition, the severe detrimental economic impact resulting from the ongoing COVID pandemic either already has significantly constrained, or will significantly constrain the ability of state agencies, including the department, to generate income from the public land trust, further diminishing natural cultural resource protection,” the department’s testimony continued.

Shimabukuro pointed out many of the departments “already serve the Native Hawaiians in many other ways, whether it’s through education, or through parks or through trails and all those kinds of things that they do.”

In a written statement, OHA told KITV4:

“OHA has never received full funding for the PLT obligation. It’s OHA’s fiduciary duty to ask for and point out what is owed to Hawaiians. How the State chooses to balance its budget to fulfill its obligation to Hawaiians is up to the State.”

The next hearing for SB 2122 is scheduled for Friday.

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