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Sen. Inouye happy with spending of fed dollars

Says stimulus money to create jobs; Hawaii has spent one-third of money

August 25, 2009
By MARK NIESSE, The Associated Press

HONOLULU - U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said he's convinced that stimulus money will soon create jobs in Hawaii, even though his home state has spent only about one-third of its federal dollars.

Inouye, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sought answers from state leaders at a field hearing Monday in the Hawaii Capitol.

''I feel good,'' said Inouye, the third-most-senior member of the Senate. ''I feel assured that we're going to come out of this with flying colors.''

Hawaii's governmental power brokers - including Gov. Linda Lingle and the four island mayors - presented themselves before Inouye to explain their experience with getting a slice of the $787 billion economic recovery money approved by Congress in February.

Hawaii has paid out $223 million of its stimulus money, which represents about 36 percent of the $630 million the state has been awarded, Lingle said. Eventually, Hawaii will get a total of about $1.4 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

''Unlike the federal government, we can't print money,'' the Republican governor said. ''That's why ARRA has been a big help to us.''

Lingle and her transportation officials said Hawaii is spending its money more slowly than some other states because it has put more planning into bigger projects, such as new bridges, instead of focusing on quick road resurfacing.

''If we employ people for two or three months, it's a Band-Aid fix. We'd be right back where we started, with a lot of people back on the unemployment rolls,'' said state Transportation Department Director Brennon Morioka. ''We wanted to make sure . . . the projects we selected would get us through these tough times.''

So far, nine of the state's original 19 stimulus-paid highway projects have been awarded. The goal is to get all of those projects awarded by the end of October, he said.

Economic activity generated by the stimulus package will peak in mid-2010, when the most new jobs have been created and all the money will have been distributed, Inouye said.

''We're on schedule,'' said Abraham Wong, an administrator for the Federal Highways Administration. ''We took a great deal of time and effort at the beginning to set out a plan.''

While most of those reporting to Inouye said the federal government has been helpful in getting the money where it's needed, some pointed out difficulties.

Lingle told Inouye her office isn't always notified when federal money becomes available, and it takes time for state workers to learn how to navigate the government bureaucracy.

Inouye said he was happy to learn that problems with stimulus funding were minor.

''My colleagues in the Senate will be extremely envious when I tell them we had a hearing and no one screamed,'' he said.



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