Hawaii lawmakers to wrap up budget negotiations


By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER

Associated Press

HONOLULU — Hawaii legislators are almost finished nailing down the details of the biennium state budget for fiscal years 2013-2015.

A committee of negotiators planned to meet Tuesday evening to discuss funding for capital improvement projects. They also planned to announce the budgets for the judiciary and Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Sen. David Ige and Rep. Sylvia Luke said they expect Tuesday’s meeting to be the last for the budget committee this session. Lawmakers have been debating the state budget in a conference committee since April 11. Hawaii’s legislative session ends next week, on May 2. Friday is the deadline for fiscal bills to be submitted to the House and Senate clerks.

The committee has already announced about 90 percent of the budget, Ige said. On Monday, lawmakers said they plan to dedicate some $15 million to help make up for federal budget cuts. They also set aside millions for Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s information technology transformation plan and student transportation.

The committee also decided to spend at least $100 million a year to draw down unfunded liabilities for employee health benefits.

Lawmakers also decided to remove funding for about 200 vacant state positions to improve transparency and accountability. The House budget proposal originally cut more than 900 vacancies, while the Senate budget didn’t remove any.

Lawmakers still haven’t announced funding for some of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s key initiatives such as his proposal for state-funded preschool. Luke suggested Monday that the funding may not be included in the state budget bill but could be added to a different bill creating the preschool program.

 

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