$787 billion just a start, Inouye cautions


POSTED: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye predicts it may be six months before Hawaii and other states see the effects of the $787 billion federal stimulus spending package.

;[Preview] Hawaii's Expected Share Of Stimulus Package

More than two billion dollars worth of federal money is in the pipeline for Hawaii as part of the massive stimulus bill President Obama signed into law today.

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  President Obama signed the bill yesterday and Inouye, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, met with Hawaii legislators yesterday to brief them on the bill.

The Hawaii portion totals $678 million, but Inouye told reporters that if the tax credits and school scholarships are included Hawaii would be enriched by as much as “;2 or 3 billion.”;

“;This one will hopefully stem the tide and slow it a little. If any results are to be seen, it wouldn't be for around another six months or so,”; Inouye said.

Still, the first package may not be enough and Inouye said he is willing to spend more to help the national economy.

“;If you listen to the experts they all suggest that if you are to really stem the tide, you would have to go deeper than this.

“;I must say, to a certain degree, I agree with that,”; Inouye said.

Inouye added that he thought more should have been added for education, both to build and repair schools and to help with education programs.

But Inouye, who as head of the key appropriations committee was involved in much of the closed-door discussions in Washington, said more than $300 billion in tax cuts were included in the bill at the urging of the Republican minority in Congress. “;The Democrats were not too keen on the tax cuts, but in order to satisfy our colleagues on the other side we proceeded.”;

Gov. Linda Lingle said her staff has been working with Inouye's office for several weeks on how Hawaii can best take advantage of the money being provided by the stimulus package.

Lingle said she expects to get a better idea of how quickly federal funds would be available to Hawaii after she meets with Inouye and members of Obama's Cabinet during her upcoming trip to Washington. She is scheduled to be in the nation's capital tomorrow through Feb. 27.

“;I would expect by the end of our visit to Washington we'll have a much clearer idea of how to best use these funds to stimulate our economy here at home, to keep people working and to create new jobs,”; Lingle told the Star-Bulletin in an interview yesterday.

She said one area where money is likely to be available by April is in federal reimbursement for Medicaid costs.

Lingle said the bill provides more money to states for Medicaid reimbursement. The new formula would be retroactive to October, and continue through June, she said. “;I think this was Congress' way of helping the states close a budget gap.”;

Lingle said her staff was still unclear on how stimulus funds for education and infrastructure needs would flow to states, but members of her team plan to accompany her to Washington to discuss those matters.

“;We're going to have people on the ground in Washington going around and making certain we understand exactly what we need to do to get this money,”; Lingle said.

Lingle did not say whether she thought another stimulus bill would be needed to help the nation's economy, but added, “;We certainly will need a bill to address the housing issue in my opinion.”;

“;I would expect that they will follow on pretty quickly with something focused on housing,”; she said. “;I think a big focus now has to be on stabilizing the housing market and keeping people in their homes. I expect they'll work on that next.”;

Obama is expected to announce a $50 billion plan today to help homeowners in danger of foreclosure.