Abercrombie’s proposals gain steam in Legislature


HONOLULU — Gov. Neil Abercrombie is seeing his legislative proposals for statewide preschool, natural resources and other issues gain momentum as House and Senate lawmakers hit a key deadline.

Thursday is the deadline for bills to cross over from one chamber to the other. Abercrombie has proposed hundreds of bills, and many are moving forward as proposed or in different forms as part of other initiatives.

In an emailed statement from Abercrombie’s spokeswoman, the governor said that he appreciates the Legislature’s willingness to advance several of his initiatives. But he noted that the legislative session is just halfway through and that much more work needs to be done.

Along with the state budget, Abercrombie has said his preschool initiative is his top priority. The Senate passed three bills to establish statewide preschool, including one that proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the state to fund privately owned preschools.

Despite Senate support for the plan, Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria says competing funding priorities could force the preschool proposal to end up differing from Abercrombie’s vision.

“The governor’s plan is one model,” Galuteria told The Associated Press. “I don’t think it’s going to come out exactly as he had hoped.”

The deadline for each chamber to vote on the governor’s proposed budget is not until next week.

The governor’s proposals to decrease renewable energy tax credits, develop public school lands, raise the minimum wage and appropriate money for the hurricane tax relief fund also overcame Thursday’s deadline.

Abercrombie initially asked the Legislature to decrease solar energy tax credits from 35 percent to 15 percent by next year. But the bill that passed the House on Tuesday is much more cautious, decreasing the tax credits to 15 percent by 2017.

During his State of the State address in January, Abercrombie called on lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 by January 2014. Both the House and the Senate approved larger wage increases that occur more gradually.

In addition, the Senate on Tuesday approved the governor’s proposal to increase the conveyance tax for high-end property sales to help fund natural resource protection.

In the House, lawmakers passed the HI Growth Initiative, Abercrombie’s proposed investment program aimed at attracting innovation to Hawaii.

Both chambers approved separate bills providing low-cost loans to help people afford green infrastructure equipment.

Although both the Hawaii House and Senate are dominated by Democrats, not all of Abercrombie’s proposals have survived.

The House on Tuesday opted against advancing a highly debated bill adding a fee to single-use checkout bags. Another proposal to tax sugary drinks failed earlier this session.