Critical Spending Should Help Bolster Economy

Sen. Michelle Kidani

In the past year, we have seen some signs of economic vitality. Yet to fully recover, we need more support for the construction industry, where unemployment remains at unacceptably high levels.

As Vice Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means, I led the Senate’s focused approach to programs that would accelerate and diversify our recovery by funding work on the backlog of repair and maintenance projects at public facilities.

By session’s end, with collaboration from our colleagues in the House, we were able to include more than $400 million in construction work.

An ongoing challenge is assuring that projects for which funds are now available are put out to bid and actually started as quickly as possible.

Our allocations for repair and maintenance projects were based on requests from the state departments that were best able to determine their own priorities. They include:

* $136 million for our public elementary, middle and high schools statewide

* $49.2 million for state health facilities, including Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe and those hospitals operated by the State Healthcare System

*$70 million for the University of Hawaii’s four-year campuses; $12.5 million for UH Manoa Athletics; and another $20 million for UH Community Colleges

* $60 million for public housing projects statewide.

We funded increased availability of ambulance service in our region, and supported additional emergency health care resources at Wahiawa General Hospital. We’ll soon see major improvements in the athletic facilities at Mililani and Pearl City high schools. I am especially pleased that significant funding is in the budget for renovation or replacement of the aging Roosevelt (Kipapa Gulch) Bridge, with consideration of expanding it from two to four lanes, which would improve travel to and from Mililani.

This budget also responds to public requests for energy-saving photovoltaic panels for the Filipino Community Center and improvements at Hawaii Okinawa Center, and a well-deserved and much needed batting cage in Waipio Neighborhood Park to support our championship-caliber baseball and softball teams.

To promote agriculture, the budget includes $1 million in improvements for Kunia Agricultural Park, and development of an agriculture processing and packing plant at the former Dole facilities near Whitmore Village. That includes $3.6 million to purchase the land as well as to upgrade infrastructure to support the facility. Another $2.5 million was included for the upgrade of the Waiahole water system which is used by our Mililani and Kunia farmers.

Our needs are many, and our resources are not without limits. We have, in my assessment, done a good job of crafting a balanced strategy of investing in public, private sector and nonprofit service organizations. By doing that, we are building a solid base upon which the economy can continue to grow and stabilize.

Call state Sen. Michelle Kidani, D-17 (MililaniWaipio) at 586-7100.