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Congressional sway funneled billions of dollars to isle projects

By Alan Yonan Jr.

LAST UPDATED: 10:10 a.m. HST, Dec 18, 2012

The loss of Sen. Daniel Ino­uye as Hawaii's main benefactor in Congress will hurt the state's effort to attract federal dollars that are a significant part of the local economy.

In addition to helping funnel billions of dollars into Hawaii through earmarks, Ino­uye was able to use his senority and influence in Washington to pull strings that kept a small state like Hawaii from suffering the full force of federal budget-cutting efforts, according to analysts.

"There was no one more well respected than Sen. Ino­uye. It's important to remember that he brought Hawaii a stature that it will probably have difficulty sustaining," said Paul Brewbaker of TZ Economics.

A senator since 1963, Ino­uye in 2009 became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he continued a long record of helping fund projects in Hawaii.

Inouye ranked second among senators for the amount of federal earmarks — funds for special projects — that he sponsored. Ino­uye sponsored $392.4 million in earmarks in fiscal year 2010, according to OpenSecrets.org. In comparison, the senator with the fewest earmarks was Minnesota Demo­crat Al Franken, whose total was $8.6 million.

The Almanac of American Politics estimated that from 1998 to 2003 Ino­uye steered $1.4 billion to military projects in Hawaii. In addition, Hawaii ranked third on the list of states with the highest per-capita federal government spending at $19,001 in fiscal year 2009, behind only Alaska at $20,351 and Virginia at $19,734, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

However, Inouye's influence on the Hawaii economy goes beyond earmarks and military spending, said Hawaii Pacific University economics professor Leroy Laney. He cited Ino­uye's work to get a fleet of NCL America cruise ships based in Hawaii and his efforts to get the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration to fund programs here, such as the Kauai Technology Center.

"His impact transcends military spending with projects too numerous to mention," Laney said. "He knows people in the Department of Transportation, the Commerce Department and the Pentagon. He knows who to call. Over the years he's brought in a lot of money that has stimulated the economy," Laney said.

"You just can't replace that kind of senority in the Senate," Laney added. "That's the way the Senate works. You stay in that long to get into a position of senority and you're able to bring a lot of money into your home state — and he certainly does."

Mattie Yoshioka, president of the Kauai Economic Development Board, credited Ino­uye with helping prevent the closure of the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands during various rounds of military base closures. The missile range employs about 800 people, 90 percent of whom are civilians, she said.

"He managed to get it off the blacklist. That's a big impact on our economy," Yoshi­oka said.

Inouye helped secure funding for construction of the $1.3 billion H-3 freeway, connecting Pearl Harbor and Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe. Most recently he successfully lobbied for the federal government to commit $1.5 billion toward the building of a new commuter rail line in Hono­lulu.

"Dan Inouye spent his career building an enduring federal presence in Hawaii to ensure that the state would receive its fair share of federal resources," his office said in the statement announcing his death. "He worked to expand the military's presence on all major islands, stabilizing Pearl Harbor, building up the Pacific Missile Range and constructing a headquarters for the United States Pacific Command.

"He has worked to build critical roads, expanded bus services statewide and secured the federal funds for the Hono­lulu Rail Transit project," the statement said.

He brought in money for education as well.

Inouye was key to funding of the East-West Center with its 21-acre campus adjacent to the University of Hawaii. The center reported net assets of $37.5 million in 2011.

"Thanks in large part to the Senator, the Center has a strong set of programs that serve an important function in U.S.-Asia-Pacific relations and understanding," said Charles Morrison, president of the center, in a statement.

Inouye exemplified how a senator's seniority could keep a relatively small state like Hawaii from being marginalized in the legislative process, said Brewbaker of TZ Economics.

"That's important because Hawaii's ongoing challenge is with maintaining ‘street cred' from an economic and business standpoint. No sooner than you achieve some credibility, it evaporates. Having someone of Sen. Ino­uye's status helps with that ongoing battle," Brewbaker said.

One of Inouye's greatest achievement for Hawaii's economy was keeping military funding flowing into the state as defense budgets were shrinking, Brewbaker said. Ino­uye's efforts to privatize military housing starting in the 1990s helped pump private capital into the economy, and later during the 2008-2009 recession helped blunt the decline in overall housing construction, he said.



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Photos: Remembering Senator Daniel Inouye Part I

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Senator Daniel Inouye through Associated Press' lens Part II

Senator Daniel Inouye through Associated Press' lens Part III

Remembering Senator Daniel Inouye Part II

Remembering Sen. Daniel Inouye Part III

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bobbob wrote:
now we're in trouble as we'll have 2 do-nothing freshmen senators. Hirono & hanabusa, 1 do nothing, the other a corrupt politician as they come.
on December 18,2012 | 02:24AM
what wrote:
I sincerely hope that, without Inouye's influence, Federal funding for the Honolulu train will be starved and the train project forestalled. The train transit project is way too big for Oahu to bear, the electricity bill alone will kill city finances. To back it was one of the biggest mistakes Inouye made. He of all people should know that highway infrastructure is way more important than rail infrastructure and should receive much more federal funding and attention than a train.
on December 18,2012 | 02:51AM
Lily55 wrote:
It's unfortunate that some people choose to display their ignorance in light of the loss of a great supporter of Hawaii...
on December 18,2012 | 03:58AM
what wrote:
Ignorance? Perhaps you are among the ignorant that think the train is paid for? It's not. By the city's own estimates, only 33 percent of the train's electricity bill will be paid by rider fares. The rest will be paid by the largest property tax hike in the history of Honolulu. All of us will pay dearly. Rents will go up maybe $100 per month to pay for it. Who's ignorant?
on December 18,2012 | 10:15AM
olderbob wrote:
Bye-bye $$$ bye-bye!
on December 18,2012 | 03:49AM
Kalli wrote:
Inouye had his finger in a lot of pies, Hawaii is the most needy state in the country and we have the welfare recipients to show for it.
on December 18,2012 | 04:52AM
localguy wrote:
Hawaii Pacific University economics professor Leroy Laney hit the problem with the US Senate right on the head, "That's the way the Senate works. You stay in that long to get into a position of senority and you're able to bring a lot of money into your home state — and he certainly does." It is this type of dysfunctional management which has wasted billions of dollars in tax payer money. Limiting Senate and Congress to 8 year terms, as our president serves, would clean up this criminal racket. 8 years and you must leave federal service, you have served your time.
on December 18,2012 | 06:32AM
Wazdat wrote:
on December 18,2012 | 06:36AM
Wazdat wrote:
OK Hawaii.NOW get used to NOT getting all the federal PORK. And don't be shocked if we LOSE a lot of military in the islands
on December 18,2012 | 06:36AM
Grimbold wrote:
"Congressional sway funneled billions of dollars to isle projects" which was of course taken away from other states which often were much poorer than Hawaii. This is never mentioned .
on December 18,2012 | 07:13AM
iwanaknow wrote:
We will suffer withdrawal pains for sure..........can you say belt tightening? sacrifice? do without?
on December 18,2012 | 07:53AM
DABLACK wrote:
Need to "tighten the belt". It was good while uncle Dan was alive. All the "pork" will come to a screeching halt. Gotta accept the fact that the funding for the rail was approved, But with fiscal cliff threatening, what now ??
on December 18,2012 | 08:24AM
64hoo wrote:
every state gets all these billions of dollors from there senaters of each state even are state that dan gets moneyfor but still we have high unemployment many more on food stamps no jobs created so all these senster get all this pork barrel money even for are state what us congress should do cut all this money for these states cut this spending so are defecit does not get worse.
on December 18,2012 | 06:49PM
Numilalocal wrote:
And now we go to the appropriations basement...
on December 18,2012 | 10:20AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Never fear! Mazie's here!
on December 18,2012 | 11:32AM
Mythman wrote:
Were all that this article says is factual were indeed true, we would be in trouble with respect to Inouye's sad departure. Fortunately, that a small state is going to be subsidized by DC has really nothing to do with the Senator's clout. A small state will be subsidized with or without a powerful senator pulling strings. Add to the list about 12 billion in federal funds for Native Americans after Chief Maui Loa and Kahuna Kamuela Price added Native Hawaiians to the list of those eligible for periodic allocations of federal assistance for American Indians. Rice v Cayetano, a technical correction, interrupted the flow but this is being fixed as we speak. The Senator was a good man but he was not as sympathetic to the plight of the native in Hawaii as some senators in other states are to their own natives, sorry to say. The native Hawaiian, being in abject poverty, just could not pay the same kind of considerations to Danny that the ali'i trusts could and did pay.
on December 18,2012 | 12:52PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
So we send about $1700 per capita to the Feds in taxes and in return we get $19,000. Guess what....the folks who are ocughing up that additional $17,300 are not happy. Up to now we have had the big horsepower of 50 year seniority Dan Inouye. Now, we got freshmen. Change is coming folks.
on December 18,2012 | 07:36PM
false wrote:
Looks like there will be absolutely no federal spending going forward. Not a penny for Pearl Harbor or any other base. I guess they are all going to close down. To bad that they are going to close the federal building and all post offices. If Inouye was only alive we would be able to keep them open.
on December 18,2012 | 09:29PM