Lingle stimulus plan should work, in time


POSTED: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

GOING forward with state construction projects in an expedited timeframe announced by Gov. Linda Lingle should help the state climb out of its current financial ditch but not overnight. The move to hurry along approved state projects in cooperation with federal and county actions is laudable but limited by processes that cannot be sidestepped.

Lingle said more than 1,500 projects statewide that were approved by the Legislature will be put on a fast track, an 80 percent increase of projects previously put on such a schedule. Even then, she said at a news conference, the projects will be put out to bid by next September and contracts awarded by a year-and-a-half from now.

The $1.8 billion to be spent on the projects will come from a total of $3 billion that the state now has “;in the bank,”; resulting from state government bond sales, Lingle said. “;The way to stimulate the economy is to bring capital into the state,”; she explained, “;and that's what bond issues do.”;

Another outside source, of course, is the federal government. Democrats in Congress plan to pass an economic stimulus package of about $600 billion in the first two weeks of next month. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that will include $200 billion in tax cuts and $400 billion in spending on infrastructure projects, assistance to states and other domestic spending.

Lingle said she has written a letter to President-elect Barack Obama asking for federal assistance in a broadband initiative she regards as “;critical”; for “;new technology-based initiatives that thrive here.”; She said the initiative “;fits very well within the president-elect's proposal.”;

Also, Lingle said she is asking Obama for federal assistance in “;energy initiative projects”; that are consistent with his energy policy, housing proposals that are included among the state projects she announced, and “;highway modernization.”;

Of course, Hawaii's 800-pound gorilla among planned capital projects is Mayor Mufi Hannemann's rail transit system from Kapolei to Ala Moana. Lingle has been less than enthusiastic about the transit plan but indicated in the news conference that she will cooperate with Hannemann in its realization. Hannemann also is asking Congress for $500 million for city projects in housing, public safety, transportation and sewers.

“;I'm confident everyone will be cooperating,”; Lingle said. Capital projects launched to stimulate the economy will work “;if we all pull together at this time.”; Hannemann has expressed his intention to work with the governor on the stimulus plan.

Cooperation hasn't always been a hallmark of Lingle and Hannemann's relationship. Hannemann remains critical of Lingle being the only governor or governor-elect who didn't attend a Dec. 2 meeting with Obama in Philadelphia to discuss their needs caused by the financial crisis, and Lingle remains unapologetic for being too busy to attend.