Day 5

April 27th, 2011

State Sen. David Ige, the lead Senate negotiator on the budget, said tonight that the conference committee hopes to vote at 9 a.m. Thursday on a final two-year spending blueprint.

Lawmakers and staff will continue negotiations privately tonight.

If lawmakers do close the budget early Thursday, it would provide greater clarity on how much money is necessary from the separate revenue-generating bills to balance the budget and erase the state’s projected $1.3 billion deficit. Lawmakers have until a procedural deadline of midnight Friday to finish work on bills for final votes next week before session adjourns.

State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, the lead House negotiator, said lawmakers are operating under the presumption that state tax collections will decline this fiscal year by at least 2 percent, lower than the 1.6 percent projected by the state Council on Revenues.

Using a more pessimistic forecast, he said, could leave a cushion in the event the council lowers the forecast when it meets again in late May. It may also help give Gov. Neil Abercrombie some flexibility in implementing the budget.

“We’re trying to create some space in the budget,” Oshiro said.

Others, speaking privately, worry that lawmakers will not approve enough revenue-generating bills — or the bills will fall short of revenue projections — leaving the Abercrombie administration to fill the hole.

The big-ticket bills on the table would suspend general excise tax exemptions on targeted business activities, divert money from a rental car surcharge to the general fund, cap itemized deductions on higher-income taxpayers, repeal a state tax deduction on higher-income taxpayers, and impose a pension tax on higher-income retirees.

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