Monday | October 16, 2017
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Lawmakers agree on minor costs

HONOLULU — A cross-section of lawmakers from both the Hawaii House and Senate agreed on small, administrative budget items on Friday and put off tough decisions within roughly $24 billion in spending until next week.

A conference committee at the Hawaii Capitol went line by line through items worth a few thousand dollars to about $1 million per year, covering everything from veterinary lab services to general administration, but stayed away from contentious issues — like funding a statewide preschool program.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Ige and Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, traded turns reading each item line by line, indicating whether they would move forward with the Senate, House or governor’s recommendation.

Ige says the items involved no major policy decisions.

“The bulk of the items today were really more administrative,” Ige said. “It’s just really all the nitty gritty details we have to go through to arrive at a budget.”

Lawmakers, for example, set aside money for the Department of Public Safety to pay utilities so it wouldn’t tap into money previously used to fund jobs that haven’t been filled. The committee also agreed on a House plan to spend $104,000 over the next two fiscal years to fund outreach and communication efforts for the state’s arts and culture foundation.

The committee agreed to meet again Monday morning to resume its work.

The meeting is a continuation of negotiations that started Thursday, with lawmakers agreeing to set aside $217 million to pay down Hawaii’s unfunded liabilities for state employee health benefits.

The Senate’s proposed budget going into the meetings was $24 billion over two years. The House version was $23.3 billion.