House OKs $30M for Legislature
Republicans fail in a try to cut $2 million from the House's operational budget
State House lawmakers have given final approval to a $30 million operational budget for the Legislature and affiliated agencies.
The budget, up from $27.3 million last year, was approved by the Senate last week and now goes to Gov. Linda Lingle for approval.
House members approved the measure 47-3 after an unsuccessful attempt by Republicans to reduce the amount proposed for the chamber's operations by $2 million.
The bill sets aside $11.6 million for House operations, an increase of 6.4 percent from $10.9 million last year. Critics noted that the House still had about $4.4 million left over from 2006.
Republicans argued that at a time when taxpayers are struggling, lawmakers should set an example by limiting government spending and using some of the funds that were carried over.
"I guess it's just in the nature of Republicans to be somewhat prudent in spending money," said Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Kahaluu).
The proposed GOP amendment failed but won support from three Democrats: Reps. Della Belatti, Scott Saiki and K. Mark Takai.
Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City) also had been critical of the appropriation, noting that the House budget has increased 54.7 percent since 2004.
Supporters of the proposal argued the carry-over balance is needed to cover unexpected costs that could crop up during the year, adding that the amount in reserve is consistent with recommendations by nationally recognized financial advisers.
The new budget also allows lawmakers to give raises to office workers -- who are not represented by unions -- and cover costs for long-neglected items such as carpeting, curtains and furniture, supporters said.
Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell (D, Manoa) noted there was little or no increase in the House's operational budget in seven of the last 11 years.
"I'd be very surprised if next year we see an additional increase in our (legislative) budget, and so this will help us do those things," Caldwell said.
All three Democrats who supported the Republican amendment ultimately voted in favor of the budget proposal, Senate Bill 638, Senate Draft 1. The three "no" votes on the budget were cast by GOP Reps. Lynn Finnegan, Meyer and Kymberly Pine.