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Lawmakers prepare to tackle state budget

By Anita Hofschneider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:04 a.m. HST, Jan 16, 2013

Hawaii lawmakers were gearing up to address major issues that include the state budget, food and energy independence and education as the 2013 legislative session opens today.

A morning ceremony at the Hawaii Capitol was expected to feature performances by local musicians and remarks from leading lawmakers.

State Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, a Democrat, said voters can expect sweeping legislation to help Hawaii rely less on imports and more on local foods. That shift won't be easy, Galuteria said.

"Farming is not sexy," he said.

More than 85 percent of food in Hawaii comes from out-of-state, according to a state report published in October.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism found Hawaii consumers spent about $3.1 billion every two years on imported food. Replacing 10 percent of imported food with local food would add more than $300 million to Hawaii's economy every two years, the report said.

Education and state information technology systems are also top priorities for the Senate majority, Galuteria said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants more funding for both of these areas. He is also asking for more money to fund retiree health care and state employee pensions.

Abercrombie, a Democrat, is requesting $11.7 billion in total funds for fiscal year 2014 and $12.1 billion for fiscal year 2015.

State lawmakers have said they are worried about whether the state can count on as much money from the federal government as in the past, given the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye last month. The longtime U.S. senator was chair of the Appropriations Committee and was known for channeling federal funds to the islands through earmarks and strong relationships with other lawmakers.

Federal funds make up nearly one-fifth of the Hawaii budget — about $2 billion each year. With Congress no longer using earmarks and otherwise considering significant cuts to many programs, state officials expect support from Washington, D.C., to go down.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said the House majority wants a balanced budget this session. The governor likely won't get all the funding for education he proposes, Saiki said.

Abercrombie is requesting about $32 million over the next two years for a new preschool initiative. Hawaii is one of 11 states that do not have an early learning program.

Saiki, a Democrat, said the House also will address the management of public lands and various social issues. "We will be taking a hard look at the (Public Land Development Corp.)," Saiki said.

The state agency was established in 2011 to develop state lands through public-private partnerships. Environmental groups and Native Hawaiian advocates have criticized the agency for its power to ignore county zoning rules.

Saiki said he expects marijuana legalization to be one of several contentious bills about social issues introduced this session.

Rep. Karl Rhoads, a Democrat, said he plans to introduce gun control legislation. He said he may also put forth a bill to legalize assisted suicide, modeled after an Oregon law.

The Democratic Party of Hawaii has control of both the state House and Senate. The party has dominated Hawaii politics since statehood.

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loquaciousone wrote:
State Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria, a Democrat, said .... It' Aloha Friday...no need work till Monday...totototoototototootototototooto....
on January 16,2013 | 05:51AM
bender wrote:
What exactly does Brickwood Galuteria mean when he says the shift to locally produced food "won't be easy". When you couple that with information about the value of imported food and how much the state thinks it can rake in if more food were produced locally makes me leary of what lawmakers might have up their sleeves. The last thing we need is some sort of tax on imported food to push residents towards higher priced locally produced food. And hopefully lawmakers will take a very hard look at PLDC. They've heard from the public so now the ball is back in their court. They should ignore the governor and the StarAdvertiser on this matter.
on January 16,2013 | 05:57AM
Kalli wrote:
Brickwood seems not to know that it is a global economy it's not a sin to buy from somewhere else. Locally grown food doesn't mean it's healthier and certainly wouldn't be cheaper. Does he go to the most expensive stores because they are local or does he shop around for what he needs.
on January 16,2013 | 06:41AM
soundofreason wrote:
on January 16,2013 | 06:36AM
HD36 wrote:
A manager for a large supermarket said they would be out of business if not for food stamps. On top of that the food stamp users buy all the top of line products. Time to go back old school and open up soup and bread lines. The food stamp users are driving up the cost of food for everyone who works. This can't go on much longer.
on January 16,2013 | 06:37AM
Kalli wrote:
It's not brain surgery when all you have to do is raise taxes and take your $50,000 per 60 working days home.
on January 16,2013 | 06:38AM
localguy wrote:
Does anyone really think our local bureaucrats, owned by PRP, union bosses and legends in their own mind will ever do anything good for the Nei? If you do I have some Florida land you can buy, Their dismal past record shows a history of willful, dismal performance, not making the standard. Now in 2013 they suddenly have seen the light? They will have to come up with some actions, which when reviewed by outside experts is acceptable. Not thinking this will happen but I and tax payers would love to be surprised. Ok bureaucrats, either you are part of the problem or part of the solution. Get busy.
on January 16,2013 | 07:03AM
ichiban wrote:
Hey Legislatures==YOU KNOW ITS ABOUT MONEY==Find out why local products (especially foodstuff) cost way more than their Mainland or foreign counterparts. Unless locally grown foodstuff is cheaper than the ones from the Mainland, it will not sell. We have basically two surface cargo transport companies that can directly determine the price of all the products they ship to Hawaii from the Mainland due to fuel price, labor costs, etc. And Hawaii is held hostage if there's a longshoremen's strike (Hawaii or Mainland side). And maybe the Jones Act indirectly affect the price of the products being shipped. With all these negative factors facing the cost for out of state products,===Why is locally grown produce STILL more expensive than the ones from the Mainland?? WWWHHHHYYYY.
on January 16,2013 | 07:05AM
ichiban wrote:
Saiki==Don't strain your eyes looking at PLDC. Dismantle it. Do it quickly. Gonna open a can of worms if it stays.
on January 16,2013 | 07:23AM
ichiban wrote:
SA==From what source did you get the information that "Hawaii is one of 11 states that do not have an early learning program"? Why didn't you name the other 10? Anybody out there HELP ME==So is Headstart Program preschool or daycare? Is kindergarten preschool or already considered school? I NEED ANSWERS. I hear the sucking sound of taxpayers money going down the drain again.
on January 16,2013 | 07:41AM
islandsun wrote:
Tax revenues are way up. Where is that all going?
on January 16,2013 | 09:19AM
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