OHA to get $15M yearly in land deal
The Hawaiian agency and the state reach a tentative plan over payments from ceded-land use
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs would get $15.1 million a year in ceded-lands revenues and $17.5 million in back payments under a tentative settlement announced yesterday, which some say falls well short of what the agency should be entitled to under a 1980 state law.
"It appears that the trustees have settled for crumbs at the table of the king," said state Sen. Clayton Hee, a former OHA trustee and chairman. "This amount represents an entitlement lower than what the legislation called for, particularly in times when the economy is robust. From a dollars perspective, this is not a good settlement from the Hawaiian point of view."
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE OHA SETTLEMENT
The agreement between the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over OHA's share of the public land trust provides:
>> 2005-06: An additional $5 million over the $10 million allotted for the current fiscal year.
» 2001-05: An extra $17.5 million reflecting additional receipts.
The funding has been incorporated into bills introduced in the state Legislature. OHA and Gov. Linda Lingle say they anticipate further negotiations and the possibility of presenting a more comprehensive agreement to a future Legislature for consideration.
Source: Governor's Office and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs
But OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said she is "pleased with the agreement."
"This will assure additional funding for OHA and its Hawaiian beneficiaries going into the future," she said in a statement released yesterday. She declined further comment yesterday.
OHA's three-member negotiating team, which includes Apoliona, had been in talks with Gov. Linda Lingle for more than a year over the revenues and back payments, which date to former Gov. Ben Cayetano's administration. The deal requires OHA and state Legislature approval. The $15.1 million payment would be retroactive to July 1, Apoliona said.
Last night, OHA trustee Rowena Akana said the full board was not consulted before the deal was made public -- even though OHA sent out a news release with the Governor's Office on the settlement yesterday afternoon.
In the release, Apoliona said she had the "concurrence" of the board. The statement could not be clarified last night.
"The board of trustees was not privy to this deal," Akana said. "It is just egregious. It appears to be a done deal." Other trustees could not be reached by press time.
Also according to the OHA release, OHA is set to vote Feb. 2 on whether to approve the deal. But OHA's upcoming board agenda does not list the ceded-lands settlement as up for a vote, Akana said. It does say ceded lands will be discussed in executive session.
Akana said the deal's $17.5 million payoff for back payments is far too small. In July 2001, Cayetano cut off OHA's ceded-lands revenue stream. When Lingle came into office, she started paying the agency $10 million annually in revenues.
The OHA release says the $17.5 million covers payments from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2005, "reflecting additional receipts from the use of the lands in the public land trust that Gov. Lingle believes are fair and appropriate to pay OHA."
Ceded lands were crown or public lands ceded to the republic of Hawaii after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. They went to the territory of Hawaii after the United States annexed the islands.
About 95 percent of state-owned lands, including Honolulu Airport and Hilo Hospital, are ceded. OHA is entitled to 20 percent of the "funds derived from the public land trust" under a 1980 law.
Over the last 25 years, the biggest point of contention has been interpreting the law to agree on a formula of what "funds derived" the 20 percent should be calculated from.
OHA's annual revenue payments from the state have ranged from $10.8 million in 1991 to $25 million in 1995 to $8.2 million in 2001.
State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and state Rep. Scott Saiki are introducing bills on the deal.
Hanabusa said yesterday that she was glad to hear that the two sides had reached an agreement. "That's the best scenario," she said, adding she had no comment on the terms of the deal. "This is something that we've been having to battle for quite a while."
She also said the $15.1 million annual revenues allotment appears to have been chosen on precedent. Previous bills called for a similar amount, she said.
"It has history," she said. "That's why people feel comfortable."
Jon Van Dyke, a University of Hawaii-Manoa constitutional law professor who has studied ceded lands, said the deal "is a step in the right direction."
But, he added, "it's not what the Hawaiian community I think deserves in terms of the original understanding. It's long overdue that this matter should be resolved."