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Hirono: Hawaii’s stimulus share tops $1 billion

Karin Stanton/Hawaii247.com Contributing Editor

It won’t be the answer to everything, but Hawaii can expect about $1 billion in assistance through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.

The 2nd District representative has been touring her neighbor island areas to share details of the largest spending bill ever passed in U.S. history. Hirono stopped Friday to talk with Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce members. 

“This is not just a package about jobs, but an investment in the future,” she said, noting that rising unemployment and foreclosure numbers are “troubling.”

Part of the deal is putting some money back in people’s pocket, Hirono said. The tax cuts for 95 percent of the working people will mean less money taken out of pay checks, she said.

The package also is expected to save or create 15,000 jobs in Hawaii, including 8,200 in Hirono’s district which includes all the neighbor islands. Between 60 percent and 70 percent of those jobs are in non-government sectors, she said.

Hirono acknowledged national lawmakers “don’t have the magic answer” and the $787 billion stimulus package may not be all that is needed.

“It does mean at least $1 billion for Hawaii and a big part of that is for infrastructure,” she said

Hirono specifically mentioned:

*  $280 million for roads, water and sewer projects.

* $210 million for education, which will allow Hawaii to keep some programs and teacher positions that were threatened by the state’s budget shortfall. “This will allow the DOE to prevent the big cuts,” Hirono said. “The DOE will have the ability to retain some programs that would have been cut.”

* $350 million to support Medicaid, which will free up money for other priority health care programs, she said.

* $25 million for state energy projects, encourage consumers to be green, and attract alternative energy entrepreneurs through grants, tax breaks and incentives. “I’m hopeful this crisis will move us toward sustainability,” she said. “We as a country haven’t been serious about it. We have not taken advantage of all these alternative energies.”

Hirono said the act has accountability and transparency measures to ensure the benefits reach families and businesses that need it most.

She said she hopes Hawaii follows the lead of states that have formed stimulus task forces.

“A lot of states have appointed a tsar and put together a task force to fully utilize this money,” she said.”We want to make sure we know what the states are doing with this money.”

County Councilman Kelly Greenwell, representing Kona, said Big Island residents should know what they want before cashing federal checks.

“We need to envision where we want to go in the next 10, 20, 50 years. We can’t go to Washington and ask for assistance unless we  know what we want,” he said.

For example, he said, Kona needs a new landfill, hospital and sewage treatment plant.

“These are the kinds of projects President Obama is hoping communities will come up with,” Greenwell said. “This is a marvelous opportunity to plan where we are going.”

— Find out more:

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono: hirono.house.gov 

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: www.recovery.org

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