House and Senate conferees met today to begin negotiations on a final version of HB500, the state budget bill. Earlier in the 2015 session the House Finance Committee (FIN) and the Senate Ways and Means Committee (WAM) crafted their respective versions of the budget. They will continue meeting to iron out the differences between the two versions through May 1, the deadline for all fiscal bills to pass out of conference committee.
A final conference draft will then be voted upon by the Legislature and, if approved, will be sent to the Governor for his signature.
“As we set the budget for the current biennium, I am hopeful that we’ve turned a significant corner in creating a new mindset for state government to live within our means and not spend more than we take in,” said Representative Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa), House Finance Committee Chair. “No raiding the rainy day fund, no putting off payments to state employees’ retirement system, and no borrowing on our children’s future.”
Rep. Luke said that approach means making measured and reasonable decisions that consider both immediate and long-term financial obligations.
“It all comes down to using the kind of common sense ‘pocketbook’ mentality that we all exercise in our personal daily lives,” Luke said.
WAM Committee Chair, Senator Jill Tokuda (Kaneohe, Kaneohe MCAB, Kailua, Heeia, Ahuimanu) reiterated the efforts made to create a budget that best represents the legislature and is responsible to taxpayers.
“We are on track to deliver to the Governor a budget that is fiscally prudent and reflects both the legislative priorities and appropriate oversight responsibilities that are important to the Senate and the House. In the days to come, we’ll have tough decisions to make on critical need areas ranging from social services to natural resource protection to education, while continuing to meet the significant obligations we have as a state,” said Sen. Tokuda. “As we go through these deliberations, we are constantly aware that these costs are borne by our taxpayers, and we have a fiduciary responsibility to provide services to them while ensuring these resources are efficiently used and sustained.”
The committee highlighted several budget items upon which there was agreement in the House and Senate budget drafts:
· $921,000 special funds, in each year, for maintenance of the Zipper Lane
· $3,647,425 general funds, in each year, for increasing school lunch costs
· $700,000 revolving funds, in each year, for improvements to the criminal history record program
· $1,000,000 special funds, in each year, for parks administration and operations
· $1,000,000 special funds, in each year, for the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority
· $2,997,000 general funds, in each year, for projected deficits at the Hawaii State Hospital
· $635,000 general funds, in each year, for intermediate care facility costs for persons with intellectual disabilities
· $18,790,387 FY16 and $36,045,924 FY17 for collective bargaining increases for UHPA Members
· Establish a new program ID for the Charter School Commission
· $2,600,000 general funds, in each year, for general assistance payments
· $299,000 FY16 and $254,500 FY17 special funds for food sanitation health services
· $1,000,000 FY16 special funds to upgrade the State Lands Information Management System
· $250,000 FY16 and $500,000 FY17 special funds for the digitization of archives in the Bureau of Conveyances
· $100,000 general funds, in each year, to support the open data program
· $500,000 in general funds, in each year, for personnel costs in the department of the Attorney General
Budget worksheets detailing the appropriations in the overall Executive, Judiciary and Office of Hawaiian Affairs budget bills are available on the Capitol website.
The House Conferees are: Representatives Sylvia Luke, Chair; Romy Cachola, Ty Cullen, Lynn DeCoite, Aaron Johanson, Jo Jordan, Jarrett Keohokalole, Bert Kobayashi, Nicole Lowen, Scott Nishimoto, Richard Onishi, James Tokioka, Kyle Yamashita, Feki Pouha, Gene Ward.
The Senate Conferees are: Senators Jill Tokuda, Chair; Ron Kouchi, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Donovan Dela Cruz, Kalani English, Brickwood Galuteria, Breene Harimoto, Lorraine Inouye, Gil Riviere, Russell Ruderman.
The conference committee is scheduled to reconvene Friday, April 24, at 2:00 p.m. in room 309.