BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – The state of Hawaii has already spent $1.329 billion of the total $1.824 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds received to date, but just 2,046 jobs have been created. That is $650,000 per job.
Commissioners who oversee allocation of the money were briefed yesterday on the program’s progress. Commission members recently had their terms extended by 6 months until December 2011 by the legislature and governor
Edward Kemp, a local CPA who sits on the Stimulus Oversight Commission, said of the 2,046 jobs created, an estimated 1,328 are working in Hawaii’s public education system.
One hot topic among commissioners and others involved in the stimulus program is what will happen after the funds run out – they call it the “cliff effect.”
While the stimulus construction projects, like bridges and roadways, are fully funded, programs and jobs probably won’t be sustainable in the long run.
“This is an issue that we have discussed on numerous occasions. What will happen to these jobs when the funds dry up? These are jobs that are not sustainable if it was not for these particular funds.”
Kemp said the commissioners have asked state directors about their plans when the money runs out and some say they are working on getting additional federal or state funds.
The federal government borrowed almost $900 billion in federal stimulus funds and distributed it to the states.
Kemp said that money has allowed the state to “kick can down the road” and allowed the “status quo to go on longer than they would have, at the expense of our children grand children and future generations.”
“This money is not from our taxes or any other sources, it was borrowed and it will have to be repaid by future generations,” Kemp said.
He compares the spending to taking money from his granddaughter’s piggy bank. “I want to ask those spending the money, is this project good enough to break open your granddaughter’s piggy bank to help fund it? I have never asked but it occurs to me that in most cases the answer is no. Yet we are choosing to create debt for future generations so we can benefit currently, and that is unfair to people who have no voice in making those decisions.”
The commission will meet once a month until December, at which time they will issue a report to the Hawaii State Legislature.
Mark Anderson, the state lead coordinator for ARRA funds, was not immediately available for comment today on Kemp’s statements.