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House Finance Committee approves its version of state budget

By Anita Hofschneider

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:49 p.m. HST, Mar 08, 2013

The state House Committee on Finance passed a nearly $23.2 billion budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, about $600 million shy of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request for $23.8 billion.

Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said the committee took a cautious approach despite positive revenue projections because of uncertainty cast by federal budget cuts and ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.

Abercrombie asked for $11.8 billion in fiscal 2014 and $12 billion in 2015 to cover the state’s total operating costs. Instead, the committee approved $11.5 billion for fiscal 2014 and $11.7 billion for fiscal 2015.

The budget meets the governor’s request for at least $100 million per year to draw down the state’s growing unfunded liabilities. Luke says lawmakers are committed to addressing the rising cost of employee retirement and health benefits and set aside $100 million for fiscal 2014 and $105 million for fiscal 2015.

The finance committee’s budget, approved today, appropriates funding for numerous capital improvement projects and adds positions at several state departments, including 19 specialists and inspectors for invasive species protection at the Department of Agriculture.

But the committee also removed funding for more than 900 state positions that have been vacant for two or more years.

Luke says the committee hopes to improve accountability for government agencies, which previously used the unused salaries to cover vacation buyouts.

Luke also noted that the committee’s proposal includes funding for veterans’ services, airport surveillance, housing and more than $100 million to help improve school infrastructure.

She says the committee is still considering alternate funding sources to help protect Hawaii’s watersheds and that the funding may come from bonds or the general fund. The governor’s proposed initiatives to fund watershed preservation — increasing the conveyance tax and adding a fee to checkout bags — both failed in the House earlier this session.

The budget does not include funding for initiatives that the Legislature is still debating, such as Abercrombie’s proposed preschool program.

The committee also voted today on budget appropriations for the judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The committee voted to give OHA about $5.3 million, less than their $7 million request.

The committee also voted to restore the salaries of judges and appropriated about $288 million for the judiciary. The judiciary had requested about $291 million.

The deadline for the full House to vote on the state budget is next week Wednesday. If passed, the draft budget will go to the Senate for consideration.

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serious wrote:
Stupid!! Why is there funding of 4 yr olds---84 yr olds I can see. Kidding, of course, but there has never been any proof that having a baby sitting service for 4 yr olds, paid by the taxpayers work. It just increases the number of union teachers--which we really need, right??? Look at the Gates Foundation Report. The earlier you start kids the higher the HS drop out rate is--they get bored!!!
on March 8,2013 | 11:28AM
allie wrote:
It is not baby sitting hon. You are way behind the times. Pre-k teaches pre-math and pre-literacy skills. Children not ready fall behind in the K-3 very quickly and many never catch up. The middle and upper classes already know this and pay their way. Very low-income families need help to have their children ready also.
on March 8,2013 | 01:08PM
Lanaiboy wrote:
You should read the followup studies of Head Start. Dismal statistics. Sorry, but low income kids did not and do not "catch up" under this "babysitting" program. This is another "entitlement" that will be a financial drain for endless years. We are already in the puka for retirement and medical benefits at the State level (we're setting aside $100 million for 30 years) and Social Security and Medicare at the federal level. And you want to spend more buck?
on March 8,2013 | 03:46PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
See other article about recall of KY Jelly. This is bad, really bad.
on March 8,2013 | 02:36PM
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