Hawai‘i Budget Primer: An Overview of How Hawai‘i Invests in Our Future and Our People
Dont tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and Ill tell you what you value. - Joe Biden
Introduction and Overview
Hawaiis budget is a powerful foundation of daily life and a demonstration
of our states 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 Hawaiis
current and future prosperity and is an economic engine in itself, making up
20 percent of the states 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 affectedpublic health, public education, economic development? Who will bear the brunt of or benefit from the changeskeiki, kupuna, the poor, the wealthy?
How will we invest in Hawaiis 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 Hawaii Budget and Policy
Centers 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 states 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