Senate Committee Approves $500M for State Projects
A key state Senate committee today unanimously approved a massive stimulus package designed to clear a backlog of government maintenance projects while creating jobs.
The approval by the Committee on Ways and Means of Senate Bill 2012, also known as “The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012,” paves the way for a vote next week by the full Senate.
The bill would authorize the sale of $500 million in general obligation bonds to pay for repair and maintenance and other projects across a broad spectrum of state departments and agencies.
“My colleagues and I felt that we wanted to do a flagship bill to put people back to work,” Sen. Michelle Kidani, vice-chairman of Ways and Means, said in a statement. “We felt that the best way to do it was to take projects that were already on the books, such as deferred repair and maintenance type projects that the departments had wanted for years and get them done. We take care of the facilities and at the same time, put people back to work.”
“Interest rates are at a historic low and bids for contracted work are currently coming in at discounted rates,” said Senator David Ige, the committee’s chairman.
The bill had strong support from the state’s construction industry.
• $150 million for public schools
• $90 million for the University of Hawaii and University of Hawaii at Hilo
• $25 million for the UH community colleges
• $40 million for Department of Human Services facilities
• $40 million for the state’s hospital system
• $60 million for other state facilities
According to the bill, funding would also be provided to develop renewable sources of energy such as photovoltaic systems for public schools and other state facilities.
The bill also contains a provision to expedite the process through which construction projects and goods and services are obtained by temporarily raising the cap on projects carried out under “small purchase procedures” to $1 million from the current limit of $100,000.
The measure would also make projects costing less than $1 million exempt from the counties’ permitting process, which drew objections from the Sierra Club.
“Public oversight of public resources is essential in a democracy,” Robert Harris, director of the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in testimony submitted to the committee. “It provides for checks and balances between government and the public at large.”