The Legislature’s critical conference committee period kicked off Tuesday at the Capitol with Hawaii lawmakers making earnest statements about how they have found a lot to agree on when it comes to the state’s $28 billion budget.
House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda even gave props to the Ige administration, thanking the governor’s staff for its willingness to scale back funding requests in light of reduced revenue forecasts.
While the budget has been slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few months, Luke and Tokuda said the House and Senate shared many funding priorities in common.
They include $48 million for Medicaid payment increases, $300,000 for a statewide tele-health pilot project and $600,000 for clean and sober housing for chronically homeless people.
Senate conferees on the budget bill, each wearing matching Disney-themed T-shirts, pose for photos after Tuesday’s meeting.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Legislators also increased by half a million dollars money going to a rapid re-housing program. Gov. David Ige had asked for $2.5 million, but it is now slated to receive $3 million because the program has been effective.
“We are looking to provide a budget that takes care of the basic programs we have in place, but does not spend more than necessary,” Luke said in a statement early Tuesday evening. “That is why we require all state departments and programs to be accountable for exactly what they spend and the services they provide.”
“We are continuing to take a fiscally responsible approach to provide the priority needs for our community while ensuring the financial stability of our state’s resources and long term obligations.
“This means doing more with less and targeting funding towards those things that are both critically important and will sustain and grow our economy.”
To those not following the budget legislation, House Bill 100, Luke and Tokuda reeled off a series of sequences, dashes and zeros that correspond to specific appropriations.
But to those hanging on every word, they learned a little bit more about how much there would be to run their respective departments and programs.
You can read more of the agreed-upon budget highlights below.
The money chairs, however, also acknowledge that there are “tough issues and differences” to deal with as the Legislature works toward an April 28 final decking deadline.
Without mentioning any specifics, Luke said the differences are “being negotiated.”
As usual, the budget meeting at the Capitol drew an overflow crowd before it began. Among those waiting was the governor’s director of Budget and Finance, Wes Machida (third from right).
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The Finance-WAM conference committee — one might call it “The Syl and Jill Show” — resumes Thursday in the same room (No. 309) and at the same time (2 p.m.) at the Capitol.
In the meantime, House and Senate conferees must hammer out their disagreements on dozens of other bills.