BY JIM DOOLEY – Honolulu should “count on” full federal funding for its rapid transit project, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye said in a press conference today.

The senior senator gave that assurance despite growing instability in the federal budget, saying that he will protect the rail project from expected cuts in federal spending.

“I will most certainly discuss this matter with the appropriate committee,” Inouye said.

Asked how secure the funding is, Inouye said, “I think they (Honolulu officials) should count on it.”

On the federal debt ceiling crisis and credit rating downgrade, Inouye refused to lay the blame on a particular political party or faction.

“There’s enough blame for everyone,” he said. “We should be big enough to say we’re all in it.”

He sided with President Barack Obama in advocating increased tax revenues as a partial solution to the nation’s debt problems.

“Not necessarily raising taxes but closing loopholes,” Inouye said.

“Why should I be able to use interest deductions for the purchase of my second home by purchasing a 150-foot yacht?” Inouye said.

And he assailed the use of international “tax havens” by American corporations.

One such haven in the Cayman Islands is used by 9,000 American companies to avoid federal taxes, he said.

“It’s true that we tax corporations 35 per cent. But then you look at General Electric and they pay zero (taxes),” the senator continued.

The debt ceiling compromise passed by Congress last week calls for the creation of a “super committee” of 12 Democrats and Republicans to prepare a list of more than $1 trillion in spending cuts to help balance the federal budget.

“I am doing everything possible to convince my colleagues on the committee to include (new) revenue sources,” Inouye said.

The senator said he has no interest in serving on the super committee himself.

He told Senate majority leader Harry Reid,  “I don’t want to because I’m chairman of the Appropriations Committee and we’ve got a workload.”

In other comments, Inouye said he likes President Barack Obama’s chances of re-election.

“I look upon him as the best candidate we have in both parties. I think he’s holding his own,” Inouye said.

“I am confident that he will be our nominee. I’m not saying this because I’m a Democrat, but I don’t see any really strong serious candidate facing us yet,” he continued.

Inouye also advocated:

  • “A full investigation” of security lapses at Honolulu International Airport by employees of the federal Transportation Security Administration.
  • Full federal reimbursement to Hawaii of the costs of medical care provided to immigrants from Micronesia and other Pacific nations in the Compact of Free Association. “We’ve had very serious discussions not only with federal officials but with officials of the compact states. They realize that it is not fair for Hawaii to pick up the load.”
  • That his colleague, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, serve his entire term of office rather than step down prior to his announced retirement date next year.  “Look at it from the standpoint of Mr. Akaka,” Inouye said. “After all, he got elected and he wants to finish his term. I would not be the one to tell him he should cut it short. I would hate to have someone tell me that.”
  • That any cuts to Medicare and Social Security should only affect new members of the workforce. ” You don’t have to cut away anything that, say, someone who is retiring today or 20 years from now will be receiving,” he said.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com