BY SENATE PRESIDENT SHAN TSUTSUI – If you had the option to shell out a dollar today, to help you save $10 tomorrow, would you do it? Would you spend money to save money?
Sound investments that spell big savings for the State are one of the numerous ways in which the Senate seeks to fulfill its vision of breathing new life into our economy, transforming the way we operate and building a better and more sustainable Hawaii.
As part of this vision, Senate Bill 2012, “The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012,” aims to help the Aloha State and its residents. We need to get people back to work, while generating savings now and in the future. SB2012 is an aggressive, $500 million general obligation bond-funded capital improvement measure that addresses repair and maintenance projects and is designed to create an estimated 5,000 jobs statewide.
By investing significant funds today, SB2012 allows the State to save money and generate revenue by fixing existing State buildings that are badly in need of repairs and are not being fully utilized. Instead of spending money to lease private properties elsewhere, addressing needed repairs would allow the State to use its vacant or underutilized buildings to house its own displaced employees.
The projects contemplated include those that have been long deferred and must to be undertaken eventually. Maximizing the utilization and extending the useful life of existing state-owned facilities will, in the long run, prove to be a priceless investment for Hawaii.
Additionally, there’s no better time to build. This bipartisan initiative takes advantage of today’s historically low interest rates, which makes current conditions favorable for companies and governments to borrow. The current supply-demand imbalance helps keep costs down by encouraging competition among companies vying for projects. In fact, delaying much-needed repairs to public facilities would unnecessarily increase a project’s price tag, since it would cost more to fix structures in the future when infrastructure damages worsen and drive up construction costs.
Another facet of the measure endeavors to decrease the long-term cost of government through the installation of energy efficient technology, which would allow the State to provide higher levels of services, all for a lesser cost. Understanding nature’s valuable benefits, the State is already moving forward with efforts to reduce the cost of school operations.
The Department of Education recently announced a contract for a pilot project for the installation of photovoltaic systems for 15 public schools. The agreement provides the State solar power without any up-front costs, and the third party providers will be afforded a mechanism to claim tax credits. It will ultimately save the State an estimated $30 million over the life of the project.
If the State were to similarly install PV systems at all 255 of our public schools, the State could realize a savings of over $500 million over the next 20 years. Efforts like these result in cost savings and a lesser drain on the State’s general fund resources – all while reducing our carbon footprint, which continues to be another priority of the Senate.
By investing in the types of projects included in SB2012, we’ll immediately help get our economy back on track and realize big savings in various ways. But most importantly, we’ll give our keiki a safer and better learning environment, provide our kupuna with better medical facilities, and improve state infrastructures for our residents and visitors.
Senate President Shan S. Tsutsui is a Democrat representing Wailuku, Waihee, Kahului, Paia, Lower Paia on the island of Maui.