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House votes to approve state budget

    Hawaii House Committee on Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke discusses the state budget on the House floor at the state Capitol in Honolulu on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Anita Hofschneider)

The state House voted today to approve a nearly $23.3 billion state budget that secures funding for state departments and capital improvements but falls about $600 million short of what Gov. Neil Abercrombie is requesting.

Despite not meeting Abercrombie’s request, the proposal for fiscal years 2013-2015 is a marked increase from the $21.9 billion biennial budget passed in 2011.

The budget bill moves to the Senate for consideration.

Members of the House Committee on Finance, which published the latest draft of the bill last week, say positive revenue projections led them to restore resources to departments that suffered cuts in recent years.

But lawmakers say they also decided to be cautious because of uncertainty surrounding federal budget cuts and ongoing union negotiations.

The budget advanced by the House includes $1.7 billion for capital improvement projects in fiscal year 2013-2014 and more than $900 million in fiscal 2014-2015.

That sets aside more than $100 million to improve public schools and more than $100 for the University of Hawaii system.

In addition to capital improvements, the proposal also dedicates $7.9 million to update the state’s information technology systems and accounts for state department operating costs.

The proposal adds funding for personnel at state departments including the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health. At the same time, it cuts more than 900 state positions that have been vacant for more than two years.

The bill doesn’t appropriate any money for bills that the Legislature is still debating, such as the governor’s preschool program or collective bargaining agreements.

In addition to the executive budget, the House also plans to vote today on budget proposals for the judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The proposed budget for the judiciary is about $288 million, just shy of its request for $291 million.

Finance Committee members say they want to provide almost $4.5 million to restore the salaries of judges, who took a pay cut in 2009.

The committee voted to give OHA about $5.3 million, much less than the office’s $7 million request.

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