Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation were touting the $1.1 trillion federal spending plan for 2016 after voting on it Friday.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said the bipartisan deal, which was finalized early Wednesday, will boost defense spending in Hawaii by more than $200 million and increase transportation funding by almost $10 million.

“I’m pleased we were able to help secure an across-the-board increase in federal investments for Hawaii,” Schatz said in a press release

Senator Brian Schatz heads down the corridor basement on his way to the Capitol Subway system. 23 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Sen. Brian Schatz heads down a Senate basement corridor, on his way to the Capitol Subway system after casting a vote earlier this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He said Hawaii did “exceptionally well” in defense and transportation spending.

Military construction is now at $444 million, more than double what it was last year. Schatz said this is because the Department of Defense has recognized the need to invest in capabilities and infrastructure in Hawaii that will support the shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

That military funding includes $123.8 million for a new Behavioral Health and Dental Clinic at Schofield; $122.1 million to replace the medical/dental clinic at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay; $30.6 million to consolidate the electric grid at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai; and $60 million for clean energy research statewide.

In addition to the national security funding and money for veterans, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said she supported the measure’s investment in middle-class families, particularly making the Earned Income, Child, and American Opportunity tax credits permanent.

Sen. Mazie Hirono chairs a Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee Field Hearing at the Oahu Veterans Center on August 19, 2014.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, seen here during a hearing last year, said the spending bill’s passage was a “hard-fought” compromise. PF Bentley/Civil Beat

She said in a press release that an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice shows some 52,000 Hawaii families with over 100,000 children benefit from the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, which help to boost incomes by an average of $1,150 a year.

“The appropriations and tax package approved by Congress is very much a hard-fought, bipartisan compromise,” Hirono said the release.

“I have deep concerns about ending the ban on U.S. oil exports. However, Republicans also unsuccessfully sought a host of other policy changes that were even worse for our environment, our economy, and our nation,” she said. “Taken together, the benefits of this bill for Hawaii outweigh the costs and I concluded it was an agreement that I could support.”

Hirono was also supportive of the $22 billion for Pell Grants that the appropriations bill provides. She said 23,000 Hawaii students rely on this money to pay for college.

Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai is battling pancreatic cancer but made it in to the House to vote.
Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai said the spending bill reauthorized several important tax credits. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, who represents the 1st Congressional District that includes Honolulu and Kapolei, said he was pleased that the package includes tax credit reauthorizations for solar and wind energy, and the Research and Development Tax Credit that supports innovation by small businesses.

“Beyond direct spending to Hawaii, this bill increases critical funding for research at the National Institutes of Health, includes a permanent extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and delays implementation of harmful excise taxes on healthcare plans,” he said in a press release. “This will ensure that people are able to afford and access the care they need.”

The office of U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents the outer islands and rural Oahu, had not issued a statement on the deal as of late Friday morning. Like the rest of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, she voted in favor of the bill, which cleared the House 316-113. It passed the Senate 65-33.

The bill includes $250 million for Honolulu’s 20-mile rail line from Kapolei to Ala Moana, according to the Associated Press.

That’s key funding for the $6.6 billion project. Honolulu City Council is considering extending a 0.5 percent surcharge on the general excise tax to pay for a growing shortfall.

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