PROPOSED HAWAII BUDGET TARGETS ENVIRONMENT

Editorial

The Maui News

MAUI, Hawaii (Dec. 25) – A message cited in this space for years seems to be taking hold in the state Capitol – the environment is the economy.

Late last week, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said her proposed budget would boost funding for the state’s primary protector of nature – the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. She wants the Legislature to approve US$102 million in operating funds for the DLNR during the fiscal year beginning July 1 and a US$103 million for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The increase in funding is long overdue. As late as 2002, the DLNR limped along on US$60 million. Last year, the administration requested $92 million and the Legislature bumped that to US$94 million.

The extra money includes a paltry US$5 million to increase staff for enforcement of rules and regulations involving all of the state’s small-boat harbors, lands, natural area reserves – including Ahihi-Kinau on Maui – state parks and all of the waters from the high-wave line to 3 miles out to sea.

As it is, there are 110 enforcement division officers and staffers for the entire state. The budget proposal would allow the hiring of 40 more, including 10 support positions. That should mean Maui County would get six to eight new officers over two years – still well under what is needed.

The budget request seems large, but not when you consider just how important it is to protect Hawaii’s natural environment and the fact the entire state budget totals $5 billion.

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com

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