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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 7:53 p.m., Thursday, January 26, 2006

Partial settlement on table in ceded land dispute

By Gordon Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state would allocate $15 million a year to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and pay a one-time $17.5 million lump sum, according to a partial settlement of the issue of ceded land revenues reached by OHA and the Lingle Administration.

The agreement, announced today, must still be approved by both the OHA Board of Trustees and the Legislature.

The ceded lands are 1.4 million acres of former crown and government lands once part of the Hawaiian kingdom held in trust by the state. OHA is due a share of the revenues derived from those lands, under the Hawai'i Constitution.

OHA, in recent years, has been receiving about $10 million annually as its pro rata share of revenues derived from the public land trust. That amount would be increased to $15.1 million under the proposed partial settlement. Also, the agency would receive $17.5 million as back payment for the period from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2005, reflecting additional receipts from the use of the lands.

The settlement does not include additional state revenues that OHA believes it is entitled to. A decision in a lawsuit over that revenue dispute is pending before the Hawai'i State Supreme Court. These so-called "disputed revenues" include payment for use of a portion of the land under Hilo Hospital and University of Hawai'i at Manoa, airport landing fees, concession fees, and the state's share of DFS revenues.

The Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider its decision last year to dismiss OHA's legal claim to the disputed revenues.

Today's agreement was reached following more than a year of discussions between OHA and administration officials.

All payments to OHA were stopped by former Gov. Ben Cayetano but Lingle resumed those payments in 2003, shortly after she entered office.

In 2001, Cayetano halted payments following a Hawai'i Supreme Court decision which threw out the formula used to calculate how much OHA should receive. Prior to that ruling, OHA received about 20 percent of revenues from "undisputed" ceded lands.