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House approves $10.9 billion state budget

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 7:14 p.m. HST, Mar 9, 2011

The state House Finance Committee approved its draft of the state budget this afternoon, a slimmer version than Gov. Neil Abercrombie proposed but a spending increase over the last fiscal year.

The committee agreed to $10.9 billion in state spending in fiscal year 2012, a 7.1 percent increase over last year, and $10.9 billion in spending in fiscal year 2013, a 7 percent increase.

The general-fund portion of the budget, over which lawmakers and the governor have the most control, is $5.4 billion in fiscal year 2012, a 10.2 percent increase, and $5.6 billion in fiscal year 2013, a 14.7 percent increase.

The higher costs reflect the end of public workers furloughs after this fiscal year. If Abercrombie and public-sector labor unions agree to labor savings in contract talks, the spending would likely be less.

The committee opted to trim Abercrombie's budget draft, including his proposal to cover higher Medicaid costs for Pacific migrants and an extension of the state's decision to cover 60 percent of public-worker health care premiums.

The budget reductions would be combined with $600 million from separate revenue-generating bills to help close a projected deficit of $700 million over the next two years.

The state Council on Revenues is scheduled to meet tomorrow to update its revenue forecast, so the deficit estimate could soon change.

The full House is expected to vote on the budget next week and send it over to the state Senate. The state Senate Ways and Means Committee will prepare a Senate draft.

House and Senate lawmakers will meet in conference committee next month to negotiate the final budget draft that will go to Abercrombie for his consideration.

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