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U.S. Sen. Schatz working on federal funding for Hawaii

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 1:50 a.m. HST, Jan 21, 2013

WASHINGTON >> It has been less than a month since U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz took office, and while he is still in temporary offices, he says he has settled in and is working to tackle big economic challenges facing the islands.

The biggest of those challenges is the so-called "Inouye cliff" — the drop in federal funds expected because of the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye and Hawaii's loss of seniority in the U.S. Senate.

Speaking to the Star-Advertiser Sunday from his Senate offices, Schatz said since being appointed to fill Inouye's seat Dec. 26, he has been building relationships with Senate colleagues, hiring staff and settling in. He said he has filled about half of the positions in his office.

Schatz, D-Hawaii, said there is "no doubt that there is going to be a reduction in federal spending across America" in the coming year.

He said the loss of Inouye's seniority in the Senate will be an additional impact for the islands, but added at this point it's unclear just what that reduction in federal funds will look like.

"It's not as if the federal government is going to go away," he said, adding, "We have challenges in front of us."

Schatz was in his offices to greet Hawaii residents (and a few reporters), and said he's excited to see so many islanders in the nation's capital for President Barack Obama's inauguration Monday.

Among those who dropped by his offices today to pick up free tickets to the inauguration was Czarina Amian, of Kalihi, who traveled to Washington, D.C. with five members of her family.

Amian said she didn't see Obama's inauguration in 2009, so she wanted to make it to this one.

Who knows, she says, when Hawaii will have someone in the White House. 

"I wanted to go to honor him," she said. "For the state, it's really, really big."

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