“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” - Joe Biden

Introduction and Overview

Hawai‘i’s budget is a powerful foundation of daily life and a demonstration
of our state’s priorities. It sets out where we get our money and what and
who we spend it on. It dictates the investments we make in our schools, our
environment, our health, and our economy. It is the blueprint for Hawai‘i’s
current and future prosperity and is an economic engine in itself, making up
20 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

Every budget cycle, our elected leaders need to make tough decisions.

Will the state raise additional revenue by increasing taxes or fees?
Will the state add or cut services for people, and if so, what will be
affected—public health, public education, economic development?
Who will bear the brunt of or benefit from the changes—keiki, kupuna,
the poor, the wealthy?
How will we invest in Hawai‘i’s future? How much money will we spend

on affordable housing, the environment, and transportation? How much
will we save for a rainy day?

Despite the importance of the budget, for all but a few people, its process
and substance are incomprehensible. The Hawai‘i Budget and Policy
Center’s Budget Primer seeks to address that hurdle for policy makers, other
individuals and groups wanting to understand and have a say in the decisions
about our budget. This primer serves as an entry-level course covering the
components of the state budget, how it is created, and the priorities and
choices it reflects.

In this primer, we focus largely on the state’s executive branch budget.
It allocates funding to all state programs and services and is the largest
budget that the Legislature passes. The executive budget, as passed by
the Legislature in 2018 to be spent in fiscal year 2019, was $17.3 billion for
operating and capital expenditures plus other appropriations measures.1
Reflecting the different branches of government, the Legislature also passes
separate budgets for the Judiciary, Legislature, and Office of Hawaiian

In addition, this primer provides a high-level summary of county budgets,
important in their own right in collecting and spending public money to meet
local needs.

Download the Budget Primer