Bill to establish Hawaii Airport Authority fails for second year

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A bill to create an independent airport authority failed to pass the Hawaii legislature this session despite a variety of backers. The bill would have moved control of Honolulu International Airport and the state's other 14 airports out of the hands of the Department of Transportation.
A bill to create an independent airport authority failed to pass the Hawaii legislature this session despite a variety of backers. The bill would have moved control of Honolulu International Airport and the state's other 14 airports out of the hands of the Department of Transportation. Photo Credit: HTA/Ron Garnett

For the second consecutive year a bill to establish an independent airport authority in Hawaii died in the state legislature.

This year's bill did not make it out of conference, and was not voted on before the end of session on May 1.

For a few years a coalition of organizations, including the Airlines Committee of Hawaii, has been pushing for an agency that would take over control and operations of the Aloha State's airport from the Department of Transportation. The DOT itself advocated for the shift.

"An airport corporation would have added efficiency and reduced redundancy, which would have helped construction projects finish faster. Airport management does not have control over the decision making that would deliver first class airports. Without systematic changes the public should not expect significant changes at our airports," Ford Fuchigami, Hawaii Department of Transportation director, said in a statement after the bill's failure.

The fiscally autonomous authority would have spearheaded upgrades and improvements at the state's 15 airports, which are widely considered to be outdated and in need of renovations and new infrastructure.

"Like the traveling public we want Hawaii to have world-class airports, but [the bill's] failure to move forward will now set us all back," Blaine Miyasato, co-chair of the Airlines Committee of Hawaii, said in a statement.

The airport authority would have been exempt from state procurement procedures, controlling how its budget is implemented, and lawmakers expressed concerns about letting go of the purse strings. Some labor organizations have also testified against the bill, arguing the procurement procedures are in place to protect Hawaiian interests.

Hawaii's airports are self-supporting, and not funded with tax revenue. Instead the budget comes from fees paid by users such as airlines, retail shops and concessions, and passengers. That would have remained the case with an independent agency.

Two other states in the country, Maryland and Alaska, do not have independent airport authorities.

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