A joint panel of House and Senate lawmakers have finished their first day of work in conference committee resolving differences between each chamber’s draft of the overall state budget for the next two years, expected to come in at roughly $26 billion.

The Senate and House are about $250 million off in their proposed spending plans for fiscal year 2016, which starts July 1, and $290 million off for 2017. The Senate’s budget is more in line with the one Gov. David Ige proposed.

The conference committee, chaired by Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Jill Tokuda, spent about an hour Tuesday listing agreements they’ve reached so far, including $921,000 in each of the next two years for maintenance of the Zipper Lane on the H-1 freeway and $3.65 million in 2016 and 2017 to help the Department of Education handle increasing school lunch costs.

Luke and Tokuda Budget Conference

Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Jill Tokuda, center in blue, are the lead state budget negotiators. They announced numerous areas of agreement Tuesday.

Courtesy of House Majority Communications

The ZipMobile that sets up the lane to deal with traffic broke down in March, causing an hours-long traffic jam.

The Hawaii Board of Education voted this month to increase school meal prices next school year due to higher food costs and labor contract raises.

“As we set the budget for the current biennium, I am hopeful that we’ve turned a significant corner in creating a new mindset for state government to live within our means and not spend more than we take in,” Luke, the House Finance Committee chairwoman, said in a release. “No raiding the rainy day fund, no putting off payments to state employees’ retirement system, and no borrowing on our children’s future.”

The deadline for lawmakers to resolve the budget differences is May 1. There’s still a long way to go before a finalized version can be sent to Ige.

“In the days to come, we’ll have tough decisions to make on critical need areas ranging from social services to natural resource protection to education, while continuing to meet the significant obligations we have as a state,” Tokuda, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said in the release.

“As we go through these deliberations, we are constantly aware that these costs are borne by our taxpayers, and we have a fiduciary responsibility to provide services to them while ensuring these resources are efficiently used and sustained,” she said.

Tokuda and Luke said they’ve enjoyed working with each other on the budget.

Luke described her Senate counterpart as “very tough.” Tokuda, who wore the same blue “We Are WAMily” shirt as her Senate colleagues, said the House is in “good hands.”

House and Senate Budget Conferees

House and Senate state budget conferees get to work Tuesday as department heads pack the room to listen.

Courtesy of House Majority Communications

The budget worksheets provide greater detail but here are some highlights of agreements reached so far:

  • $700,000 revolving funds, in each year, for improvements to the criminal history record program
  • $1 million special funds, in each year, for parks administration and operations
  • $1 million special funds, in each year, for the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority
  • $3 million in general funds, in each year, for projected deficits at the Hawaii State Hospital
  • $635,000 general funds, in each year, for intermediate care facility costs for persons with intellectual disabilities
  • $18.8 million FY16 and $36 million in FY17 for collective bargaining increases for University of Hawaii Professional Assembly members
  • $2.6 million in general funds, in each year, for general assistance payments
  • $299,000 FY16 and $254,500 FY17 special funds for food sanitation health services
  • $1 million in FY16 special funds to upgrade the State Lands Information Management System
  • $250,000 FY16 and $500,000 FY17 special funds for the digitization of archives in the Bureau of Conveyances
  • $100,000 general funds, in each year, to support the open data program
  • $500,000 in general funds, in each year, for personnel costs in the department of the Attorney General

The next conference committee meeting on House Bill 500 is set for 2 p.m., Friday, in Room 309 at the Capitol.

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