Lawmakers one week ahead of schedule on budget talks
Senate conferees dressed in blue and posed for pictures following a budget meeting lawmakers call "historic" -- a change in the way of doing the people's business.
"In order to be as transparent as possible we wanted to start early," said House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke.
A week before conference committees are set to meet, the heads of the two money committees announced they agreed to devote a huge chunk of cash toward the state's unfunded liabilities--which cover the retirement and health benefits for govt workers. It's twice the amount the governor asked for.
"It is $100 million in the first year, and $117 in the second year. We really do believe that is a required to do, not nice to do," said Ways and Means Chairman David Ige.
And in the event of a state disaster--they agreed to set aside money for risk management.
"Just in case catastrophic incidents happen within the state, we made a commitment for $1.7 for risk management in the first year, and $3 million in the second year,” Luke said.
Members did agree to fund the invasive species council to the tune of $750,000 for each of the next two years.
And they also included money to keep charter schools accountable by fully funding the charter school commission so it can conduct audits and set performance contracts.
There is also money set aside for the state library system to buy more books.
But they are still wrestling with which vacant positions to trim. Many will be eliminated following a bold move by the House to cut $50 million dollars from the budget.
"So clearly, the actions by the action by the house did get the state's attention and they are being honest about what positions are vacant and they may not need," Ige said.
The budget conferees will still need to deal with pending federal budget cuts. They are talking about holding a special public hearing on how to deal with the impacts of sequestration.
They meet again Friday afternoon.
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