As state departments are being asked to retain lean operating budgets in light of an $844 million budget shortfall, Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s office is asking the Hawaii Legislature for an extra $1.06 million in “emergency” funds to get through June.

That would bring the office’s budget for the current fiscal year to $2.7 million in general funds. Without the extra cash, current funding will run out in mid-March, according to Abercrombie press secretary Donalyn Dela Cruz.

Lawmakers are scheduled to make a decision Friday morning.

Dela Cruz said the office’s current $1.68 million budget was submitted by the previous Lingle-Aiona administration, and approved last year by lawmakers.

“This is the budget we walked into,” she told Civil Beat.

The request — formally an emergency appropriation — is spelled out in Senate Bill 1286.
The bill also seeks an extra $300,000 for Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz‘s office. Last week, Abercrombie sent letters [pdf] to House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Shan Tsutsui asking for “prompt attention to this matter.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday held a public hearing on the bill. Committee Chairman Sen. David Ige deferred decision-making until 11 a.m. Friday. It’s not clear which way lawmakers are leaning.

During the hearing, Amy Asselbaye, Abercrombie’s chief of staff, read prepared testimony and noted the budget request is less than the $3.1 million the previous governor had last year. In earlier budget meetings, Ways and Means Committee members grilled Asselbaye about the governor’s budget, but Thursday’s hearing was described as tame by one attendee.

Asselbaye’s testimony said the $1.06 million includes:

  • $365,000 for vacation payout for the prior administration.
  • $52,000 for a reimbursement to the Department of Accounting and General Services for laptops and networking.
  • $12,000 for out-of-state travel for the governor, chief of staff and security detail for the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., at the end of this month.

Budget reports show Abercrombie’s office currently has 22 vacant positions — including chief and deputy negotiators. Asselbaye has said some staff are working on a volunteer basis. Those vacancies include:

  • Policy analyst ($62,248 salary)
  • Community relations specialist ($54,000 salary)
  • Governor’s representatives for Hilo, Kona, Kauai, Maui and Molokai ($60,000 salary each)
  • Washington D.C. liaison ($90,000 salary)

Schatz submitted written testimony in support of the bill. He wrote that “without this emergency measure, our office will run out of funding by the end of February.” Some of the extra money would be used to add five employees on top of the current staff of seven.

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