By OSKAR GARCIA
HONOLULU — The Hawaii state Senate on Thursday approved a $24 billion budget for the next two fiscal years, setting up talks with the House to work out differences in the proposals that fall short of what the governor wants.
The Senate unanimously approved a plan that would finance state operations with $11.9 billion in fiscal 2013-14 and $12.1 billion in 2014-2015. The House version of the budget is less generous at $23.3 billion.
Sen. Sam Slom, the lone Republican in the Senate, voted for the budget with reservations and presented an alternative budget that he says would put the state on better financial footing.
Sen. David Ige said his proposal is more conservative than what Gov. Neil Abercrombie wanted because the executive budget exceeded revenue projections from the Council on Revenues.
Ige told Senate President Donna Mercado Kim in a report that the Senate proposal allots about $136 million less in general funds over both fiscal years than what Abercrombie requested. The senator said the budget still provides resources for education and other priorities, including environmental protection, social programs and upgrading technology infrastructure.
The budget includes $78 million in each year to restore 5 percent pay cuts for state workers.
The main difference between the Senate and House versions of the budget is that the House version cut funding for some 900 vacant state jobs, assuring that they wouldn’t be filled.
“Current information indicates that many of the positions were or will soon be filled,” Ige said in his report. “Also, funds budgeted for these positions are often used by state agencies for emergency hires and other expenses necessary to provide services.”