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Legislature passes ‘fast track’ bills to boost economy

MEDIA RELEASE

In a united effort, the Hawaii State Senate and the House of Representatives has voted to pass Senate Bills 239 and 809. Conference Committees convened two weeks ago to “fast track” both measures that were carried over from the 2011 session.

Senate Bill 809 increases University of Hawaii (UH) authorization to issue revenue bonds from a total principal amount not to exceed $200 million to a total amount not to exceed $300 million to fund UH construction projects, which would stimulate the economy and generate construction jobs.

Upon passage of the bill, UH will query the campuses to compile a listing for the use of the appropriation and plans to start projects no later than Spring 2012.

One of the projects that will benefit is the Culinary Institute at Kapiolani Community College, which will finally be able to begin construction.

This bill is in line with the goals of the session, which is to create a win-win situation in job creation and addressing our aging infrastructure,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education.

“I’m very pleased that the Legislature was able to fast track the bill to raise the revenue bond ceiling for the University of Hawaii,” said Rep. Scott Nishimoto, House chairman of the Higher Education Committee. “Not only will it allow the University to move forward on projects to improve the campuses, but it will provide much needed construction jobs to help stimulate the economy.”

Sen. Michelle Kidani, who oversees all the Capital Improvement Program projects for the Senate and serves as vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, echoed similar sentiments.

“This goes along with our belief this session that we should be implementing more Capital Improvement Programs in order to put more people back to work,” she said.

“It’s another tool for the University. We’ve been delegating to them a lot more fiscal flexibility and this revenue bond authorization would allow them to act without legislative approval explicitly,” said Sen. David Y. Ige, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The University will be able to bring on the projects quicker and a more timely fashion.”

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 239 allows the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) to continue using the Hawaii Tobacco Settlement Special Fund for the school’s operational expenses. Extending the life of the fund would result in supporting the school’s mission of training physicians.

“This bill allows us to extend the authority for JABSOM to use the Hawaii Tobacco Settlement Fund. This will allow us to grow our own doctors and increase our healthcare providers and address the doctor shortage,” said Tokuda.

“JABSOM is the lifeline for physician providers, so without this bill our healthcare could worsen. We need to show one hundred support for our medical school,” said Sen. Josh Green, M.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.

“JABSOM is a critically important component of Hawaii’s health community,” said Rep. Ryan Yamane, House chairwoman of the Health Committee. “Even during this challenging economic period, we will continue to work with the medical school to help ensure that their operations are adequately funded.”

The bills will now go to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for consideration.

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