The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee last week hobbled a bill to reform Hawaii’s publicly funded election system, limiting it to House races instead of the full Legislature.

The Ways and Means Committee on Thursday picked up House Bill 1481 and ushered it forward to a vote before the full Senate.

Funding was a critical concern for Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee, who said his committee’s support depended on answering how much the program would cost in no uncertain terms.

Kory Payne, executive director of Voter Owned Hawaii, a nonprofit that has been working on the bill and pushing it since its inception, said there are solid estimates of how much it would cost.

He said under the very improbable situation in which two candidates in every Senate and House race maxed out their allowed spending, it would cost $5 million annually. For just the House, the cost is estimated at $2.5 million. But more realistically, he said it will probably cost closer to $750,000 annually.

The Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to insert blank amounts for a certain number of full-time employees and seed money to get the program started. The final financial decisions will be made in the coming weeks should the bill continue to move forward.

Nathan Eagle