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Federal budget bill is ‘best by far for Hawaii’ in years, Schatz says

William Cole
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Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in May. Schatz said today that he is “thrilled” with the money appropriated for Hawaii in the federal budget bill.

A $1.3 trillion government spending bill will add millions in funding for Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said today.

“With this bipartisan deal, Hawaii will receive a sizable increase in federal funding,” Schatz said during a conference call with reporters. “In fact, this is the best appropriations bill by far for Hawaii that I’ve seen since I got to the United States Senate,” said Schatz, who has been a senator since 2012.

Schatz said the bill will provide funding that will create jobs and help veterans, health care, Native Hawaiians, conservation, the University of Hawaii, housing, transportation and aviation.

“I’m really thrilled with this bill,” said Schatz, D-Hawaii.

House and Senate appropriators released the agreement Wednesday night, Schatz said. The House passed the spending package today. Schatz said the appropriations bill was on its way to passage in the Senate, and President Donald Trump indicated he would sign it.

Affordable housing efforts would get about $41.4 million, a $5.8 million increase from last year. The money will support the HOME Investment Partnership program, which provides resources to help communities build and maintain affordable housing, Schatz said.

Japanese American Confinement Sites, including Honouliuli National Monument, would receive $2.9 million nationwide — despite Trump’s proposed funding elimination, Schatz noted. The money will support Japanese American Confinement Sites grants. The confinement sites program “got fully funded nationwide, and Honouliuli really is the main one that needs funding in the short run,” Schatz said.

Veterans Affairs would get $81.5 billion nationwide, a $7 billion increase from last year. Schatz said in a release that the amount will help fund the construction of new facilities including a 120-bed state extended-care facility in Honolulu.

Without passage, the government would shut down at midnight Friday. The bill funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year through Sept. 30. Billions in new spending will increase the budget deficit.

Schatz said Hawaii funding will include:

>> Native Hawaiian Education — $36.4 million, a $3 million increase from last year. Trump proposed eliminating funding for Native Hawaiian education programs in his budget, Schatz said.

>> Native Hawaiian Health Care — $17.5 million, a $3.1 million increase. . This funding will support five Native Hawaiian health centers on Hawaii Island, Kauai, Molokai, Maui, and Oahu.

>> Highway and Transportation—$177.4 million, a $3.5 million increase. This funding supports highway maintenance and construction of bridges, roads, and bike and pedestrian paths.

>> Bus and Transit — $7.6 million, a $2.6 million increase from last year. This estimated funding is distributed among the state and counties for costs associated with operation of public transit systems, including the Maui Bus, TheBus, Kauai Bus, Hele-On Bus, and TheHandi-Van fleets.

>> Clean Energy Research for the Military — $25 million, a $5 million increase. The money supports Navy’s alternative energy research programs that make its installations more resilient and less reliant on fossil fuels.

>> Native Tourism — $4.4 million nationwide, new funding. This money includes $1 million from transportation and $3.4 million from community and economic development accounts within the Department of the Interior to implement the NATIVE Act, which was signed into law in September 2016.

>> Hakalau Forest and Haleakala Conservation — $13 million, an increase of about $800,000 for Hawaii projects. The bill includes $7 million for Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge and $6 million for Haleakala National Park.

>> Environmental Restoration on Formerly Used Defense Sites — $248.7 million, a $26 million increase . Hawaii will see a 10 percent increase in funding. The money is meant to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identify and remove unexploded ordnance at former military sites across the neighbor islands.

>> Military Construction — $317 million, a $119 million increase from last year, and including $90 million for the Army’s command and control facility at Fort Shafter.

>> Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument — $500,000. The spending deal authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make a competitive grant of up to $500,000 for research and management activities in Papahanaumokuakea, and is subject to a 100 percent non-federal match

>> East-West Center — $16.7 million. Schatz said Trump’s proposed eliminating the center. “The East-West Center directly supports the U.S. rebalance to the Asia Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue with countries in the region,” Schatz said.

>> Native Hawaiian Housing — $2 million. Schatz said Trump also proposed eliminating the program. The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Program provides financial assistance for Native Hawaiian families to obtain new homes, make renovations, build community facilities, and receive housing services.

>> Tsunami Program — $31.6 million nationwide. The NOAA Tsunami Program provides funding to coastal states for preparedness activities such as inundation mapping, disaster planning, and tsunami education.

>> Maui Space Surveillance System — $10.4 million. The funding supports defense programs, including the Dynamic Optical Telescope System, that help track, identify and characterize space objects of interest.

>> High Performance Computing Modernization Program — $221 million. This funding supports regional supercomputing centers, including the Maui High Performance Computing Center.

>> Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals and Sea Turtles Protection — $8 million. The funding will continue to support monk seal conservation and recovery.

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