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Lawmakers agree on $217M to pay down health fund deficit


State House and Senate budget negotiators today agreed to a significant down payment in addressing the state’s $16 billion unfunded liability in the public-worker health care fund.

Lawmakers agreed to devote $100 million in fiscal year 2014 and $117 million in fiscal year 2015 toward the unfunded liability. Kalbert Young, the state’s budget director, had asked the Legislature for the initial money.

The Abercrombie administration, however, estimates that the state should be spending about $500 million a year to address the issue. Legislation that would ramp up the annual payments to the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund is still pending this session.

Rep. Sylvia Luke, the chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, and Sen. David Ige, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, announced the agreement as the conference committee on the two-year state budget opened this morning.

Negotiations opened earlier than usual because of a commitment from both Luke and Ige to try to avoid the last-minute scramble on state spending that has often occurred in the final days before the Legislature adjourns.

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