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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hawaii House committee draft budget adds $50M to cut teacher furloughs

Advertiser Staff

The state House Finance Committee this morning released its draft of the state budget for the fiscal year that starts in July, proposing an additional $50 million to reduce teacher furloughs at public schools next school year and slicing $10 million from the University of Hawaii.

The supplemental budget contains $10 billion in state spending, down slightly from Gov. Linda Lingle's budget request. The general fund portion of the budget, over which the governor and state lawmakers have the most control, is $4.8 billion, which is lower than the $4.9 billion the governor proposed.

State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawä), the committee's chairman, said the budget draft "puts children first" and attempts to protect the safety net for the poor and needy.

The draft now goes to the full House for approval before it moves to the state Senate, which will complete its own draft. House and Senate negotiators will meet in conference committee on a final draft before the session adjourns in late April.

Oshiro, expecting protests over the proposed cuts to the university, noted that a labor contract reached with faculty includes the restoration of temporary pay cuts and adds pay raises in future years. He also said the university has the ability to raise revenue through tuition increases.

The $10 million cut is about 3 percent of the university's $357 million general-fund budget. Overall, the university would get $858 million.

The committee also proposed a $3.9 million cut in child-care subsidies, with $1.9 million coming from general-fund money. Oshiro noted that many of the subsidies now go to family members who care for children.

The committee, meanwhile, agreed to add $1.5 million to specialty courts, such as drug courts, in the Judiciary budget. Lawmakers on the committee were persuaded by testimony that the specialty courts, which guide offenders toward treatment and probation, are more cost-effective than incarceration.