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Senate passes $12B state budget

By Cathy Bussewitz

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 6:24 p.m. HST, Mar 31, 2014

The state Senate on Monday passed a $12 billion state budget for the 2015 fiscal year, envisioning less spending than what Gov. Neil Abercrombie originally proposed.

The state's Council on Revenues lowered its revenue forecast, which meant that lawmakers had to adjust spending even in the current fiscal year.

Sen. David Ige said the Legislature predicted there would be reductions, but they did not believe it would be so dramatic.

"We are facing much difficulty in the future that should not be compounded by unwise and irresponsible actions taken today," Ige said.

The senators reduced the governor's proposed budget for 2013-14 by $46.1 million, and reduced the budget for 2014-15 by $167.9 million. Most of the reductions were made to proposed capital improvement projects. Retaining funding for early education and school athletics was a priority, Ige said.

Most senators voted Monday to advance the bill (HB 1700). But Sen. Sam Slom, the lone Republican, voted against the budget proposal. He said the revised revenue projections should have been a wakeup call and the Senate should cut further to prevent future shortfalls.

"A single mom doesn't have the opportunity to spend more than she takes in, and a small business doesn't have the opportunity to do that," Slom said. "Only government. And why? The only money we have is money we take from others and those people are struggling in this economy."

The budget now goes to a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers to iron out differences.

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