By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s preschool proposal will likely be getting a boost from the state Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Committee Chairman David Ige said Friday that the committee, which is in the process of mulling over its version of the state budget, plans to fund the proposed early childhood program. He said senators are still debating exactly how much to set aside.
Abercrombie has said the new preschool program is his top priority this session. But the state House budget draft didn’t include any funding for the proposal.
House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said previously that the committee chose not to fund any proposals that are still being debated. The House budget proposal fell about $590 million short of Abercrombie’s request.
The House draft also removed funding for more than 900 vacant positions in state departments.
During a Senate hearing on the budget, state department leaders urged Senate leaders to reject the proposed vacancy cuts, saying that they are indiscriminate and harmful.
Ige told The Associated Press that the Senate committee won’t include those cuts in its budget proposal.
He said rather than looking at the House budget draft and revising it, the Senate committee is looking at Abercrombie’s budget proposal and focusing on which of the governor’s proposals should be funded.
He said after the Senate votes on its budget proposal, lawmakers from both chambers will come together to work out the differences.
Ige says the committee is aiming to publish its budget draft by April 1.
He said he expects it to be somewhere between the House’s $23.25 billion proposal and Abercrombie’s $23.8 billion request.
He said his committee is facing less pressure than the House did when crafting its proposal because of recent positive revenue projections that the Council on Revenues released after the House Finance Committee published its budget draft.
“To be fair, timing is everything,” he said. “We have more than $300 million more so we won’t have to be as aggressive.”