Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means unanimously voted to pass the Senate’s version of the $11 billion supplemental budget for the State of Hawaii, House Bill (HB) 2012. Following three years of budget cuts totaling more than a billion dollars each year, this year’s budget provided the Senate with a refreshing opportunity to reinforce the safety net where needed, reinstitute core services that have been decimated over the past three years, and make strategic investments in key areas that can help us grow the economy and sustain a more prosperous future for Hawaii.
The Senate’s version of the budget is both responsible and responsive to the governor’s budget requests. Most of the governor’s initiatives have been funded, as they pertain to maintaining the safety net and restoring the ability of government to perform necessary functions.
The governor’s budget includes funding to significantly improve the infrastructure for information technology (IT) throughout state government, an area in which the Senate has led by example. The Senate’s budget includes more than $27 million dollars for critical infrastructure IT projects that will support increased efficiency in the transformation of state government. The Senate also supports the governor’s broadband initiative to improve services and deployment of broadband to ensure that each and every citizen has access.
The Senate also aims at strengthening the safety net, including adding funds for child welfare, domestic violence shelters, Medicaid, and various shortfalls across the Department of Human Services, including an additional $18.2 million directed at the temporary assistance for needy families program. In addition the Senate is supporting $3.6 million for information technology initiatives to modernize the Department of Human Services.
Notably, the Senate has underscored education as a top priority by adding $44 million to the Department of Education’s budget. Specifically, the Senate’s budget focuses on key areas of investment in education, including: the weighted student formula, student meals, the community school for adult program; early learning, and student transportation.
Following significant evaluations of the Charter School system, the Legislature has a measure this year to rewrite the charter school law. This is also reflected in the Senate budget. To ensure equal appropriations for the public schools and the charter schools, the Senate added about $1 million dollars to assist in the transition plan and its implementation, as well as equal per pupil operating funding based on project enrollment.
After years of neglect in our public libraries the Senate appropriated $500,000 for e-books, books, and other circulatory materials for our state libraries. This is the first appropriation for new circulation materials in the last four years.
The Senate’s version of the 2012 Supplemental Budget seeks to move the State forward, protect safety net services, and make strategic investments that will advance our economy.
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