Senators push to cut Superferry funding
Maui Sens. English and Tsutsui lobby to halve a $20 million appropriation for harbor improvements
In an effort to get more information from the company planning an interisland ferry service, Hawaii Superferry, two Maui state senators are lobbying to cut state funding needed by the ferry.
Maui Democratic Sens. J. Kalani English and Shan Tsutsui convinced the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday night to cut in half a $20 million appropriation to fund harbor improvements that the ferry will need.
Tsutsui said he wants the state Transportation Department to hold three public forums on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island to hand out information and receive public comment about the ferry.
The two senators said in a press release that they want the state to "conduct site surveys and assessments in collaboration with the Hawaii Harbor Users Group to gauge the (Superferry's) impending impact on all current users of the state's ports."
Critics of the Superferry have charged that the neighbor island ports lack a specific ferry terminal and are already overcrowded, and the ferry service will crowd out existing shippers.
"We want the Superferry to have more outreach with the community. They said they would come forward and nothing has happened in a year," Tsutsui said.
"This is one way to get them to show us the final plan," English said.
John Garibaldi, the Superferry's chief executive, denied that his firm hasn't been communicating with the affected communities. Instead of holding wide-open public forums, Garibaldi said the company formed "advisory boards that include some of the critics, including members of the Harbor Users Group and the Farm Bureau."
Using advisory boards and meeting with community groups are more efficient ways of getting the community involved than hearings, Garibaldi said.
Lorraine Inouye, Senate Transportation Committee chairwoman, said she will hold an information hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. to find out what progress the Superferry has made in addressing community concerns.
But Inouye (D, Hilo-Honokaa) said she still supports the Superferry and would not support cutting the needed funding.
"I made a commitment to fund the $20 million. I am committed," Inouye said.
Last year, Tsutsui was successful in having the Superferry's requested $40 million divided into two $20 appropriations.