Hawaii House Finance Committee approves budget
By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
HONOLULU — The state House Committee on Finance passed Friday a nearly $23.3 billion budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, about $590 million shy of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request for $23.8 billion.
Chairwoman Sylvia Luke says the committee took a cautious approach despite positive revenue projections because of uncertainty cast by federal budget cuts and ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.
Abercrombie asked for $11.8 billion in fiscal 2014 and $12 billion in 2015 to cover the state’s total operating costs.
Instead, the committee approved $11.6 billion for fiscal 2014 and $11.7 billion for fiscal 2015.
The budget meets the governor’s request for at least $100 million per year to draw down the state’s growing unfunded liabilities.
Luke says lawmakers are committed to addressing the rising cost of employee retirement and health benefits and set aside $100 million for fiscal 2014 and $105 million for fiscal 2015.
The finance committee’s budget appropriates funding for numerous capital improvement projects and adds positions at several state departments, including 19 specialists and inspectors for invasive species protection at the Department of Agriculture.
But the committee also removed funding for more than 900 state positions that have been vacant for two or more years.
Luke says the committee hopes to improve accountability for government agencies, which previously used the unused salaries to cover vacation buyouts.
Luke also noted that the committee’s proposal includes funding for veterans’ services, airport surveillance, housing and more than $100 million to help improve school infrastructure.
She says the committee is still considering alternate funding sources to help protect Hawaii’s watersheds and that the funding may come from bonds or the general fund. The governor’s proposed initiatives to fund watershed preservation — increasing the conveyance tax and adding a fee to checkout bags — both failed in the House earlier this session.
Friday’s budget does not include funding for initiatives that the Legislature is still debating, such as Abercrombie’s proposed preschool program.
The committee also voted Friday on budget appropriations for the judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The committee voted to give OHA about $5.3 million, less than their $7 million request.
The committee also voted to restore the salaries of judges and appropriated about $288 million for the judiciary. The judiciary had requested about $291 million.
The deadline for the full House to vote on the state budget is next week Wednesday. If passed, the draft budget will go to the Senate for consideration.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.