House and Senate negotiators moved closer on Tuesday night to completing an $11 billion supplemental state budget for fiscal year 2013. Negotiators agreed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request for $25 million to help cover an increase in public school bus costs, far less than the state Department of Education has said is needed. Some in the department have warned of massive cuts to bus service.
“The shortfall is still significant,” said Kathryn Matayoshi, the state schools superintendent. She said the department would look at reducing costs or finding money from other parts of the education budget.
Negotiators also agreed to an additional $14 million for the department’s student spending formula to account for an increase in enrollment. Lawmakers described the new money as an investment in the classroom at a time when educators are preparing innovations and reform to improve struggling schools.
Negotiators also signed off on new money for Abercrombie’s justice reinvestment initiative and for information technology. Abercrombie took a seat in the front row of Room 309 at the state Capitol during the public portion of the budget deliberations, a rare appearance for a governor. The governor had privately greeted the negotiators last week before the conference committee opened.
House and Senate leaders said budget talks would resume Wednesday night. Other bills with a finance-related component are on hold until a budget agreement is reached, leaving little time for discussion before Friday’s deadline.