$500 Million Spending Bill Flies Through State Senate

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A key economic measure in this year’s legislative session – $500 million in new government construction spending – sailed through the Senate today and will now be taken up by House lawmakers.

The bill, SB2012, passed unanimously, with the chamber’s sole Republican member, Sen. Sam Slom expressing reservations about the measure while still supporting it.


The bill dedicates $500 million raised in a recent bond sale to repairs and maintenance of government facilities and fast-tracks the state’s ability to spend the money.

The largest chunk of money, $150 million, is earmarked for the Department of Education.

Other blocks of spending:

  • $127 million to the University of Hawaii (includes $12 million for the athletics program at the Manoa campus of UH).
  • $63 million to the Department of Accounting and General Services (includes $3 million for state libraries).
  • $70 million, Department of Health.
  • $40 million, Department of Human Services.
  • $20 million, Department of Land and Natural Resources
  • $15 million. Department of Public Safety.
  • $5 million each to the Judiciary and Departments of Agriculture and Defense.

The measure aims to expedite government spending by raising the ceiling on small purchases from $250,000 to $1 million.

The proposal would also eliminate protests from losing bidders for “small purchase” contracts. Projects worth less that $1 million would also be exempted from county permitting and licensing requirements.

Sen. David Ige, D-16th (Pacific Palisades, Pearl City, Waimalu, Upper ‘Aiea, ‘Aiea Heights), chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said “the timing couldn’t be better” for passage of the bill.

The state is paying record low interest rates on the bonds that pay for the projects, and recent costs of construction are also far lower than expected, he said.

Bids for University of Hawaii construction projects have recently been running nearly 20 per cent below expectations, said Ige.

“Projects initiated by this measure will provide thousands of direct and indirect jobs for our unemployed and underemployed,” said Ige.

Sen. Slom, R-8th (Hawai’i Kai, ‘Aina Haina, Kahala, Diamond Head), said, “This bill alone is not going to solve all or even a majority of our economic problems.”

The Legislature “has to do more than just one bill and more than this particular bill,” he said.