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Inouye likes stimulus report


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POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Despite some early stumbles due to the overwhelming scope and scale of the federal stimulus project, Hawaii government officials reported mostly positive news when U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye came to Honolulu asking for a status report.

“;I'm very satisfied,”; Inouye, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said yesterday after holding a hearing at the state Capitol.

With the amount of money spent and the number of new jobs created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expected to “;peak”; by mid-2010, Inouye said he wanted to gauge how the state and counties are spending dollars already allocated.

“;I leave this place 'up,'”; he added. “;I feel good. I feel assured that we are going to come out of this with flying colors.”;

State and county official testified that even though early deadlines were tight—and in some cases unrealistic—the cooperation with his office and other federal agencies has helped keep them on track to meet upcoming deadlines to receive stimulus money.

“;It's just a lot to do in a short period of time,”; said Gov. Linda Lingle.

;[Preview]  Federal Stimulus Money Slow To Affect Hawaii
 

Hawaii Senator Dan Inouye said Hawaii shouldn't expect to feel the full effects of more than one billion dollars worth of federal stimulus money here until a year from now.

Watch ]

 

The state has spent $223.9 million, about 36 percent, of all the federal dollars it expects to receive over the next two years under the stimulus plan, Lingle said.

Although governors had been tapped by Congress as the leaders in making sure stimulus dollars were expended in their states, Lingle said there had been some delays early on because of bureaucracy issues. She also noted that some entities had to be trained how to properly account for the money coming their way.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who attended part of yesterday's hearing, questioned Lingle on whether she will be able to release state money for health care to enable Hawaii to receive matching federal dollars under a program that would benefit a greater number of Medicaid recipients.

Lingle said she would do her best to release what she could, but cited the state's dire financial condition as a primary reason for restricting funds across all agencies.

The state is facing a budget deficit approaching $800 million, and Lingle compared the lack of money to secure matching federal money to a struggling family that is unable to take advantage of a “;buy one, get one free”; sale.

“;If you don't have the money to buy the one, it doesn't matter if you get the other one free,”; she said.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, testifying on behalf of the state Legislature, criticized Lingle's stance as not meeting the needs of underserved communities.

“;This is not a shoe,”; said Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua), referring to Lingle's analogy. “;This is a matter of being able to provide twice the amount of care that people need at half the price.”;

Hanabusa said the Legislature's priorities for the stimulus money are reflected in the budget passed last session, but legislative leaders are unable to say whether the stimulus money has reached its destination, because the governor controls the flow of money.