J.Kalani English

Jobs, economy priorities for 3 Maui senators

The Maui News
January 15, 2012

By CHRIS HAMILTON - Staff Writer (chamilton@mauinews.com)

* Editor's note - This is the first in a two-part preview of the 2012 session of the Hawaii State Legislature, which opens Wednesday. A story about what Maui's delegation to the state House of Representatives is planning will run in Monday's paper.

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WAILUKU - When asked what their priorities are for the legislative session starting Wednesday, Maui's three state senators had some different projects in mind but agreed that job creation will likely dominate their time.

"Getting the economy on track plain and simple is our top goal," said Senate President Shan Tsutsui, D-Central Maui-Paia.

The plan he's working on in conjunction with Hawaii economists, Tsutsui said, will pump $500 million into the state for capital improvement projects including road repairs, school improvements and upgrading government buildings to be more energy efficient - approved projects that had been deferred.

Tsutsui's efforts will be joined by Sen. Roz Baker, D-South Maui-West Maui, chairwoman of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, and Sen. J. Kalani English, D-Lanai-Molokai-Upcountry-East Maui, chairman of the Transportation, International and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

Baker and English also said job creation is on the top of their heads but they have other priorities as well. With the economy on everyone's mind, English expects that a lot of the bills that will move forward this year will be carried over from the 2011 session.

"We're saying the market conditions are right to do these projects and more on the books possibly," Tsutsui said. "These projects will put people to work right way. This is stuff we should have done a long time ago.

"This would by far be the largest attempt to spend on maintenance in a very long time," Tsutsui said. "It will stimulate our economy and can be done fast."

The jobs might be smaller, he said, but they go to businesses statewide and the money stays here.

"It will be the Senate's major initiative." the body's president said.

Tsutsui said that adding new computers, photovoltaic and air conditioning to schools and government buildings also will save on utility bills. The new technology will cut labor costs for taxpayers, too, he said.

Other industries are rebounding, like tourism, "but construction is still holding us back" - one reason to focus on an infusion of capital improvement projects, he said.

"And politics won't play a role because this is exactly what we need now," he said. The Department of Education alone has projects totaling $372 million, he noted.

"You will have a project in every single campus in Hawaii (and on Maui) from Hana to Kahului," he said.

The other big issue, Tsutsui said, will be the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' $200 million proposed settlement with the state over ceded lands.

"We will have to look for a win-win situation," Tsutsui said. "It's going to take up a lot of time."

English said he thinks making old and rickety bridges safer statewide will increase safety and provide economic stimulus. It also guarantees long-term access to communities and destinations.

"I'm trying to put together a plan for the (Department of Transportation)," English said.

Another project he supports is an $18 million upgrade of Hana Airport, which would include new fencing, lights, fire protection and terminal renovations, among other measures, English said.

Baker said she wants to work on getting the funds to do the infrastructure work necessary to prepare for the planned new Kihei high school. Baker said they have the land and the environmental statement but no developer or funding.

She also wants to revisit boosting economic development with more tax incentives for films in Hawaii.

Baker also said she wants to "clean up and finish" Act 28, where face-to-face mediation is required before a foreclosure can go through. The law is working, but "we want to finish the work," she said. Baker said with the help of a task force she might streamline it.

Baker also said she would work on the restoration of swim-zone buoys to Kaanapali, as well as efforts to restart the "makai watch" program in the area.

Tsutsui and English also said they were concerned about high airfares, and Tsutsui said that maybe the Senate would consider reductions in landing fees, terminal rent and possibly some tax credits.

"People are telling me, 'Everything is going up except my wage,' " English said.

English said the economic forecasts are better, though, but not great. Hotels in Waikiki and on Maui are full now, at least. He said he sees "glimmers of hope" and "people are a little happier."

But the session is about "jobs, jobs, jobs," he said and not much else. "I want to create the jobs, but I also want meaningful outcomes."

* Chris Hamilton can be reached at chamilton@mauinews.com.

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SENATE

Shan Tsutsui

Party: Democrat

District: 4th (Kahakuloa-Wailuku-Kahului-Waikapu-Kahului-Lower Paia)

Hawaii State Capitol, Room 409

415 S. Beretania St., Honolulu 96813

Phone: 586-7344

Fax: 586-7348

Email: sentsutsui@capitol.hawaii.gov

Leadership: Senate president

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Rosalyn 'Roz' Baker

Party: Democrat

District: 5th (West Maui-South Maui)

Hawaii State Capitol, Room 230

415 S. Beretania St., Honolulu 96813

Phone: 586-6070

Fax: 586-6071

Email: senbaker@capitol.hawaii.gov

Committee memberships: Commerce and Consumer Protection (chairwoman); Economic Development and Technology; Health; Public Safety, Government Operations and Military Affairs

***

J. Kalani English

Party: Democrat

District: 6th (Upcountry-East Maui-Lanai-Molokai-Kahoolawe)

Hawaii State Capitol, Room 205

415 S. Beretania St., Honolulu 96813

Phone: 587-7225

Fax: 587-7230

Email: senenglish@capitol.hawaii.gov

Committee memberships: Transportation and International Affairs (chairman); Ways and Means; Energy and Environment (vice chairman); Hawaiian Affairs

© Copyright 2012 The Maui News.

Original article URL: http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/557204/Jobs--economy-priorities-for-3-Maui-senators.html

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