Lawmakers approve state budget

Published: Apr. 28, 2011 at 11:08 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 28, 2011 at 11:45 PM HST
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Rep. Marcus Oshiro
Rep. Marcus Oshiro
Patricia McManaman
Patricia McManaman
Rep. Gene Ward
Rep. Gene Ward

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The conference committee made up of both House Representatives and Senators approved the state budget by a vote of 28-0 Wednesday night. Two republicans were absent from the vote. The committee chairs say this budget was about choices and that the low hanging fruit had been picked long ago and overall they are happy with what they've come up with.

"We have a budget. It's not the budget that we would prefer but it is a budget attempts to maintain the core government services in these trying times. It is a budget that lays a foundation I believe in long term success," said Rep. Marcus Oshiro, (D) House Finance Committee Chair.

"First and foremost this budget does fund the department of education to ensure there won't be furloughs in the next biennium provided the governor is smart about his negotiations," said Sen. David Ige, (D) Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair.

The state deficit is $1.3 billion for the next two years.  Despite the deficit lawmakers have eliminated the furlough days for all state workers.  They'll spend $88 million each of the next two years to keep the doors open at state offices.  That money in part came from the five percent pay cut taken by union workers.

State senators and house members were all sitting around the table together going line by line through the nearly 900 page budget.  Each state department is learning how much money they'll get and how much they'll have to cut.

In a sign of the times the Department of Human Services walked away happy because the cuts weren't worse than expected.  They'll still have to cut $150 million from Medicaid over the next two years.  And the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF funds were only cut $12 million, something the director says is manageable.

"Our main concern is that at this point in time there is no cut to our core benefit package.  For a family of three the $605 I don't think we'll need to make reductions at this time to basic monthly benefits," said Patricia McManaman, Department of Human Services Director.

"What we saw was a lot of the trees and we're waiting for the forest, i.e. the appropriations bills that are going to pay for all those things. <23:18> is there going to be a pension tax, the house and senate are still fighting over it. What's going to come out," said Rep. Gene Ward, (R) House Minority Leader.

Rep. Ward is concerned about getting sucker punched because if cuts in services aren't enough he fears democrats will raise more taxes including the general excise tax which he fears will get resurrected at the last minute.

The budget now goes to the full House and Senate to approve next week and as we've seen in the past anything can happen on the last day of session.

To read HB200, the state budget click here.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.