Hawaii Lawmakers Stretch Deadline to Pass $11.2B Budget

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

UPDATED Sunday 4/29/2012

A marathon session at the Capitol that began Friday morning, ended in the wee hours of Saturday with Hawaii lawmakers finally ending a budget stalemate and unanimously agreeing to pump $825 million worth of bond-financed capital improvement projects into the economy next year.

Legislators had already agreed on an $11.2 billion operating budget, but the CIP portion held up passage of the supplemental budget for the current year that ends June 30.

House Bill 2012 passed out of conference committee at 3 a.m. It heads for a floor vote next week.

Specifics on the CIP portion of the budget weren't immediately available online. Lawmakers added in close to $430 million in general obligation bonds for projects in fiscal 2013, resulting in the $825 million total. Earlier in the day, House and Senate lawmakers were pushing two very different plans.

The House preferred a CIP budget closer to the $300 million Gov. Neil Abercrombie had proposed, while the Senate has been pushing for an additional half-billion dollars in general-obligation-bond financing for reapair and maintenance projects.

You can get a sense of the operations spending from budget worksheets online, which outline the agreements and disagreements that existed as the House and Senate headed into conference committee. The general fund portion of the $11.2 billion operating budget totals a little over $5 billion.

Some of the operating line items lawmakers compromised on earlier in the week include:

  • $18.2 million in general funds for "procured services for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families," or TANF welfare benefits

  • $17 million in special funds for "projected electricity, sewer and water cost shortfalls" at the Honolulu International Airport

  • $2 million in special funds for the transportation department's highways division "to address damages caused by recent heavy rains throughout the state"

  • $350,000 in special funds for three temporary positions for the Public Land Development Corp.

  • $215,568 to fund nine plant quarantine inspectors at Kahului Airport

Deadline Extended for Other Money Bills

The impasse on the budget threatened all other money-related bills that faced a 6 p.m. deadline Friday.

Just before midnight, House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Shan Tsutsui announced an agreement to extend that deadline until Monday morning, allowing deliberations to continue over the weekend for certain fiscal measures.

They appear to not include Say's favored measure, Senate Bill 755, the one granting some state and county projects exemptions from environmental review. It was never heard during conference committee.

Another big measure, the undersea cable bill, did not pass by Friday's deadline but could still move if the Senate agrees to House amendments.

Lawmakers recognized that they had to give more time to some important bills.

"We believe that due to the delay in the passage of the budget, allowing these bills to die based on an internal procedural deadline is not in the best interest of the people of Hawaii," Tsutsui said.

The extension saves the Legislature from a replay of last session, when several important bills were left on the table in the final days of 2011 because of prolonged budget talks.

Say said the extension would apply to:

  • "Bills with general fund appropriations that fit within a $50 million ceiling. This is outside of the general funds of the supplemental budget."

  • "Bills with non-general-fund appropriations that had agreements of the conference committee on language, and approval of the chairs of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Finance Committee as of 6 p.m. Friday."

  • "And third, other fiscal bills with (Ways and Means) or Finance referral that had the agreement of the conference committee on language, and approval of the chairs of Ways and Means or Finance, as of 6 p.m."

  • Tsutsui added that no general fund enhancement or tax relief bills will be allowed.

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