Senate Committee Adds $628M to State Biennium Budget

Mar 29, 2017

Senate Ways and Means Committee unanimously added $628 million to the biennium state budget.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Lawmakers continue to work on the State Budget.  Today, members of the Senate’s money committee unanimously approved its version.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.    

The Senate Ways and Means Committee added $628 million in state funding for the Governor’s 2-year operations budget. Committee chair Jill Tokuda explains.

“Even before the Council on Revenues reduced what we had to spend by $250 million, we began to craft a budget that funded fixed costs, created a safety net for critical services at risk for federal funds reductions and right-size departments to run more efficiently through the elimination of redundant contract costs and long standing vacancies.”

The Senate’s spending plan provides $14 billion in all sources of funding for departmental and agency operations in 2018 and 14.3 billion in 2019.   The committee will fund homeless programs and services, adult dental care, medical marijuana licensing, food safety and pesticide compliance.   It will also cut more than 5 million dollars in salaries for vacant positions and establish limits to control $13 million in overtime spending by the Department of Public Safety.  Again, Ways and Means chair, Senator Tokuda.

“In the second year of the biennium we are basically capping the O-T that they can have at 10 percent of their base salaries.   If they feel the O-T is necessary, and they’re going over that 10 percent, then they need to come back to the Legislature to request an emergency appropriation to explain why.   Because if you’re going to take it out of the mouths of the elderly, the homeless, environment or any other department – and that’s what it really comes down to -- you will justify it.”

Funding is also being provided for the UH Cancer Center, Wahiawa General Hospital, Kahuku Hospital and Maui Health Systems.  The Department of Education will receive money for Early College and Keiki programs and additional funding for utilities and bus service.   But, capital improvements and construction funding will be cut with public education being the overall winner.   Ways and Means Vice Chair, Senator Donovan Dela Cruz.

“The governor’s amount for CIP was $1.49 billion; the House had an amount of $1.09 billion; and the Senate’s amount is going to be $999 million.  So in regards to education, a lump sum fund of $168 million for new schools and classroom projects.   We’re also providing $437,965,000 to the Department of Education.  That’s 44 percent of the entire G.O. Bond amount awarded statewide.”

But the biennium budget doesn’t include collective bargaining pay raises which could be added to the budget when agreements are reached.  Wes Machida is the state’s Director of Finance.

“Many of the units are going through arbitration, currently and so the first arbitration decisions won’t happen until next month.   For every one percent for the biennium – so that’s for a two-year period – across the board in General Funds, would be $85.4 million.  For all means of financing – so that includes General Funds and all other funds – it would be $107 million for a one percent increase for all 14 units.”