Welcome to Capitol Watch. There’s just a few weeks remaining at the Hawaii Legislature, and balancing the budget is issue No. 1. Civil Beat is there.

3:06 p.m. HGEA v. GOP

Gene Ward, Barbara Marumoto and Cynthia Thielen issued a press release today criticizing the governor’s recent contract agreement with the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

“Paying people to stay home is wrong, especially when some of our offices are short-handed and the public is experiencing delays and backlogs,” said Marumoto, who said that labor costs make up almost 70 percent of the state budget. “Taxpayers will receive less service and pay for the nine days of extra vacation.”

Not long after, Randy Perreira fired back, “Once again, the Republicans are using bogus math to further their own ideological agenda and attack government workers.”

He added:

“Their continued rhetoric that ‘labor costs make up almost 70 percent of our state budget’ is misleading because government is in the business of providing services, not manufacturing goods — therefore it’s understandable that labor costs would be higher because outside of overhead and resources, government pays only for personnel costs.”

HGEA will hold statewide ratification meetings beginning Monday and continuing through April 25. The meetings are only open to HGEA bargaining unit members.

2:50 p.m. Reid Names Inouye to Deficit Panel

Harry Reid has appointed Dan Inouye and Max Baucus to “engage in bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on deficit reduction to be led by Vice President Biden,” according to a press release today from Inouye’s office.

Earlier today, Inouye and Dan Akaka voted along with 81 senators to approve legislation to keep the federal government funded through Sept. 30.

Inouye, in his floor statement, said in part:

“As in any compromise, neither party to the agreement is happy with every item in the bill. Some on the other side would have preferred more cuts in domestic programs while most members on our side believe we have cut our domestic priorities too deeply. But, this is truly a bi-partisan bill. When it is approved it will be the most significant legislation to pass the Congress this year.”

2:21 p.m. Obama Says He Was Born in Hawaii

In an interview today with ABC News, Barack Obama says that he was indeed born in Hawaii.

George Stephanopoulos reports:

I thought the president would take a pass when I asked him about Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican field in my exclusive interview today.

Far from it.

He grabbed at the chance with a big smile — saying he thinks the whole issue will be a problem for Republicans.

“I think that over the last two and a half years there’s been an effort to go at me in a way that is politically expedient in the short-term for Republicans. But [it] creates, I think a problem for them when they want to actually run in a general election where most people feel pretty confident the President was born where he says he was, in Hawaii. He — he doesn’t have horns … we’re not really worrying about conspiracy theories or — or birth certificates,” President Obama told me.

And in all my talks with Obama I think it was the first time he was one the same page as Karl Rove who thinks the “birther” controversy is hurting the GOP.

1:45 p.m. ‘Daily Show’ Spoofs Trump’s Investigators

In case you missed it, Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last night impersonated an investigator hired by Donald Trump to find Barack Obama‘s birth certificate in Hawaii.

Click here for Talking Point Memo‘s recap of the show as well as the video itself.

12:45 p.m. Senate Officially Kills Taxing Pension Income

Following through on a proposed amendment introduced Tuesday, the state Senate removed the sections of House Bill 1092 that would have taxed pension incomes.

The one “no” vote was from Sam Slom, who said the bill, which now goes to a conference committee, will likely be subject to “the desire to tax pensions in this big square building for those that can least afford it. The safest thing to do, the most honest, is to vote it down.”

But Clayton Hee, who introduced the amendment, said, “In fact, we went through great pains to take out any effort by the Legislature to tax pensions of retirees — to the extent that we had the attorney general’s language inserted into the journal of record. The Senate went beyond state and county retirees being taxed to include all retirees beyond government.”

David Louie had advised the Senate that taxing pensions, while arguably constitutional, could invite lawsuits.

Hee admitted that there may be “several vehicles,” meaning bills,” where pension income could be taxed, but not the measure voted on today by the Senate.

Les Ihara, Josh Green and David Ige voted “yes” on the bill but with reservations.

One Senate insider whispered to me shortly after the vote, “Well, there goes several hundred million dollars out the door.”

12:03 p.m. UPDATE: State Senate Unanimously Approves New Ed Board

No surprise: On a roll call vote of 24-0, the state Senate confirmed the governor’s nine appointments to the Board of Education.

They are:

Don Horner, Kim Gennaula, Keith Amemiya, Wesley Lo, Brian DeLima, Nancy Budd, Jim Williams, Charlene Cuaresma and Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui.

11:59 a.m. Hirono, Hanabusa Split Budget Vote

Colleen Hanabusa voted “aye” while Mazie Hirono voted “no” today for a U.S. House bill that funds the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2011.

The full vote was 260-167, with most Republicans supporting the bill and most Democrats opposing it.

The Hill reports:

Although President Obama helped broker the deal and it came with the support of Democratic leaders in Congress, 108 Democrats voted against it, with 81 yes votes.

7:31 a.m. Social-Service Nonprofits to Rally

PHOCUSED, a nonprofit that advocates for Hawaii’s “most vulnerable citizens to promote and protect adequate health, housing, and human services,” will rally at the Capitol Rotunda from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The idea is to push lawmakers to continue funding programs that help in that regard. DHS director Pat McManaman is expected to attend.

Supporters of PHOCUSED, which stands for “Protecting Hawaii’s Ohana, Children, Under Served, Elderly and Disabled,” are asked to wear green for the rally.

BOE Picks Await Full Senate Confirmation

We’re going to go out on a limb here and predict that all nine of Neil Abercrombie‘s appointments to serve on the Board of Education will be confirmed when the state Senate convenes beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Unanimously confirmed.

Done deal. You watch.

Town Hall: Clean Energy in Makiki

Neil Abercrombie is scheduled to deliver brief remarks tonight sometime between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at a Makiki Town Hall Meeting on the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

The meeting will be held at St. Clement’s Church, Parish Hall, 1515 Wilder Ave. Street parking is limited, “so walking, biking, carpooling, or busing is encouraged,” says a press release.

Also on hand will be Mina Morita, Denny Coffman and Darren Kimura.

Della Au Belatti is hosting the meeting in celebration of Earth Day 2011.

Resolution: National Assistance Dog Week

Senate Human Services is scheduled to hear a resolution asking the governor to make the second week of August National Assistance Dog Week.

The “reso,” introduced by 16 House representatives of both parties, says:

WHEREAS, the State of Hawaii has 227,000 citizens with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, those citizens who need a service dog wait approximately three to five years for a service dog; and

WHEREAS, assistance dogs, including service dogs, guide dogs, hearing alert dogs and alert/seizure response dogs, transform the lives of their human partners with physical and mental disabilities; and

WHEREAS, assistance dogs serve as devoted companions, helpers, aides, best friends and close family members; and

WHEREAS, recognizing these dogs, who benefit Hawaii’s citizens with disabilities, will aid in raising awareness and educate the public about how these specially trained animals are aiding so many people in Hawaii and could benefit so many more of Hawaii’s citizens.

Race to the Top on PBS Hawaii

Dan Boylan‘s “Insights” tonight discusses Hawaii’s involvement in the national Race to the Top competition.

Hawaii was one of just 12 awardees (we got $75 million) out of 46 states and territories that competed in the $4 billion federal program.

Boylan’s guests include Kathryn Matayoshi.

Catch up on previous coverage:

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