BY SEN. BRICKWOOD GALUTERIA – The Hawaii State Senate accomplished many of its priorities set forth at the beginning of the 2012 Legislative Session.  The overarching themes and priorities of the Senate were in alignment with Governor Abercrombie’s “A New Day in Hawaii.”

Although Hawaii is experiencing a steady economic recovery, many people are still unemployed, especially in the construction and trade industries.   Realizing this reality, the Senate made job creation and creating a sustainable economy top priorities through its flagship initiative, The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012.  To accomplish this goal, the Senate was able to include in excess of $414M for repair and maintenance projects in the Capital Improvement Program portion of the Budget for fiscal year 2013, pursuant to House Bill 2012.

The projects will focus on smaller repairs and maintenance to extend the useful life of existing state-owned assets and facilities; energy conservation and sustainable improvements; and health, safety and code requirements.  State departments and everyone statewide will benefit from this funding.  All trades in the construction industry will prosper with the creation of more than 4-thousand shovel-ready jobs, as well as businesses that provide goods and services to the industry.

To further support tourism, strategic investment was made through the development and implementation of new initiatives to significantly increase visitors.  China in particular is a rising market for Hawaii’s tourism industry, with unprecedented growth potential. Looking ahead into the future, the Senate supports an emerging market, such as Space Tourism. It has the potential of being a billion dollar global industry that could significantly increase state revenues, provide new aerospace jobs, and rejuvenate economic development in the Kalaeloa area.

The steady economic recovery allowed for the reinforcement of the safety net. The Senate Majority is mindful of the struggles Hawaii’s most vulnerable citizens suffer and supports efforts to assist them.  Child welfare, domestic violence shelters, MedQuest, and various shortfalls across the Department of Human Services were addressed in the State Budget. Non-profit organizations were also provided assistance for the continuation of services and community programs statewide.

The Senate has notably underscored education as a top priority.  Through the State Budget, key investments were made in the weighted student formula, student meals, Community Schools for Adults and student transportation.  The Senate believes early life experiences lay the groundwork for a child’s lifelong learning. Affordable and accessible high quality programs for all children are critically important for their success. Working in concert with the Governor’s Early Childhood Education Initiative, the Legislature passed a measure that establishes the Early Learning Council and the Early Learning Advisory Board.  For higher education, funding was appropriated for much-needed capital renewal and deferred maintenance for the University of Hawaii system. Funding was also appropriated to address significant growth in student enrollment at the community colleges.

The Senate Majority strives to make Hawaii a model for the rest of the country by continuing the Hawaii

Clean Energy Initiative.   Realizing that reducing electricity costs depends in part on diversifying energy sources, the Senate passed bills addressing geothermal exploration.  The Legislature also passed a measure that creates a regulatory framework for an interisland electric transmission cable.

In the area of technology, the Senate calls for investing in the State’s IT infrastructure to improve government and its services to the public.  The State Budget makes significant investments in software upgrades, integration in information technology, and the modernization of databases, to name a few.  The Senate also supports the Governor’s broadband initiative to enhance services and ensure that every citizen has access.

With many priorities accomplished, the Senate Majority still has a lot of work ahead and looks forward to continuing to serve the people of Hawaii.

Senator Brickwood Galuteria, D-Waikiki, Downtown Honolulu, is the Senate Majority Leader

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