Lawmakers should provide UH-West funds
Funding for the University of Hawaii's Leeward campus remains uncertain.
THE chancellor of the University of Hawaii-West Oahu is optimistic that state lawmakers this year will put up some money
to back their expressed support for a new campus.
However, remarks by a state senator suggest the funding -- included in the House budget but not in the Senate's -- is being held off as a bargaining chip to be used as legislators begin negotiations over bills.
While such maneuvering is standard practice at the state Capitol, it is unfortunate that an important decision like this could be held hostage to deal-making. Since key senators say they favor the construction project, they should act straightforwardly.
Chancellor Gene Awakuni has asked the Legislature to approve $35 million in construction bonds to begin the new campus, which for years has held classes in portable buildings next to Leeward Community College. Plans are to integrate the campus with housing and retail spaces, selling state land to a developer to raise another $100 million for the construction.
The House last year passed on approving funds, but has now given preliminary approval to $31 million for roads, power lines and other infrastructure. The Senate did include funds last year, but hasn't this year.
Sen. Rosalyn Baker, Ways and Means chairwoman, says the money outlook "is far more favorable this time around." The funding is "a negotiating position" as bills go to conference committees, she told the Star-Bulletin's Craig Gima. Holding off "doesn't mean we don't love West Oahu."
The West Oahu campus would promote higher education in a region where the distance to the Manoa campus often discourages potential students. A campus closer to their communities gives added tangibility to the goal of attaining a college degree.
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