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The time is right to invest in Hawaii

By Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, Senate Majority Leader; Sen. David Y. Ige, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means; and Sen. Michelle N. Kidani, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Oversees Capital Improvement Projects for the Senate

The time to invest in Hawaii’s future is now. The Hawaii State Senate firmly believes this as evidenced by its recent unanimous and bipartisan passage of The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012, Senate Bill 2012.

This measure is an aggressive $500 million general obligation bond-funded Capital Improvement Program package that will create jobs by investing and stimulating our local economy from all corners of the State and can become available as soon as it is passed out of the House and the Governor signs the bill.

The need for capital improvements authorized by Senate Bill 2012 is great. There is a backlog of over $1 billion in repair and maintenance projects for aging State facilities, from schools to hospitals.

The measure aims to significantly reduce the repair and maintenance backlog list at 225 schools statewide and all 10 University of Hawaii campuses.

The improvements will extend the useful life of State facilities and put people to work right away by fixing roofs and windows, and other basic essential repairs.

The investment now will far outweigh the cost in the future, mitigating the need to fund replacements and reducing other future maintenance costs.

Making improvements to our State facilities now is cost effective. With Hawaii currently experiencing the lowest interest rates in recorded history, significant savings have accrued from the State’s most recent bond issuance.

Additionally, many bids for construction work are coming in significantly below budget. According to an assessment from the University of Hawaii, repair and maintenance bids have come in about 18 percent below what was estimated over the past six months.

This means taxpayers are currently getting an excellent value for construction projects now being implemented.

Another top priority of the bill is to develop sustainable and renewable energy resources, such as photovoltaic technology. Investing in renewable energy and upgrades to information technology initiatives throughout schools, hospitals and office buildings will ultimately lead to cost savings and a reduction of the State’s carbon footprint.

For example, photovoltaic projects currently underway at 15 Kauai schools are expected to save the Department of Education an estimated $30 million over the life of the project while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Among the significant benefits of addressing the capital improvement needs contemplated in Senate Bill 2012 are the thousands of jobs that will be created for our unemployed and under-employed workers. While our economy is showing signs of stabilization, the unemployment rate is still high, at over 6 percent.

The construction industry has been particularly hit hard during the recession. Hundreds of workers have been without a job for years.

In Kona, times have been tough for 85 percent of its union members. Many are financially strapped; some face foreclosure. Their counterparts statewide share in their struggles.

The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012 will give a big boost to the economy and put people to work by appropriating funds for shovel-ready jobs for all trades in the construction industry – from carpenters to consultants. Small and large companies would be able to bid on jobs through an expedited State procurement process.

According to estimates by DBEDT’s job multiplier, this measure could create or sustain more than 5,000 jobs. That means jobs that will put money in workers’ pockets, which will in turn mean spending in our local economy.

This bill will benefit everyone as it gets our economic engine running again. The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012 creates a win-win situation for all.

The time is now to invest in Hawaii for our future.

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