Hawaii lawmakers to announce more budget matters

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Associated Press

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 7:05 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers are planning to announce key decisions in budget negotiations as a deadline for fiscal bills looms ahead.

House and Senate conference committee members plan to disclose their latest decisions Monday evening.

Lawmakers have already agreed on most of the state operating budget, including at least $100 million over the next two years to address the state's unfunded liabilities and funding to reopen a Big Island prison.

But lawmakers are still figuring out how much to set aside for highly debated proposals, such as Gov. Neil Abercrombie's early childhood education initiative. The governor has said that funding preschool is his highest legislative priority, but critics have said they doubt the proposed program's effectiveness.

Although both chambers have Democratic majorities, the Senate has shown more willingness to dedicate money to Abercrombie's proposals than the House.

The Senate budget proposal included about $26.5 million for Abercrombie's preschool plan, but the House draft didn't include any funding at all.

The Senate has also supported Abercrombie's initiative to encourage entrepreneurship, which was overlooked in the House budget draft.

The Senate's budget proposal is about $24 billion in contrast to the House's $23.5 billion draft. The House version had bipartisan support and removed funding for more than 900 vacant positions in state agencies.

This is the last week for negotiations. Many bills are waiting to hear approval from the budget committee before they can move forward. By Friday, all fiscal bills have to be sent to the House and Senate clerks in their final drafts.

The Hawaii legislative session ends May 2.

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