WASHINGTON — Bringing home the bacon (or kalua pig?) is a big part of the job for Hawaii’s federal delegation.
That’s especially true considering two of the four members — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Ed Case — sit on their respective chambers’ Appropriations Committee.
On Tuesday, those positions, combined with the Aloha State’s importance to the U.S. government’s strategic military position in the Pacific, paid off when the House passed a $1.4 trillion spending package that will fund the government through Sept. 30.
The legislation, which is expected to pass the Senate later this week, increases government spending by about $50 billion and includes a number of major provisions, including a 3.1% pay raise for federal workers, the repeal of certain taxes that help pay for the Affordable Care Act and funding for research into gun violence.
But there’s also loads of money buried inside the nearly 4,000-page omnibus spending package that’s destined for Hawaii.
“Hawaii’s share of federal dollars continues to grow every year,” Schatz said in a celebratory statement Tuesday. “This appropriations bill will give our state the federal funding we need to create jobs and strengthen housing, health care, and education programs.”
Schatz in particular has a lot to be happy about. In addition to increased funding for Hawaii, he was able to secure bipartisan support for his proposal to raise the national smoking age to 21.
That deal comes on the heels of another victory last week in which Schatz’s proposal to give all federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave was included as a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, a massive bill outlining the nation’s military priorities that President Donald Trump intends to sign.
In a press release, Schatz provided a bulleted list of the hundreds of millions of dollars headed Hawaii’s way.
He highlighted $189 million that can be used to upgrade highways and build new bridges, roads and pedestrian pathways.
There’s $21 million to help rebuild the Hawaii Volcano Observatory after it was damaged during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea, and another $1 million for research into the macadamia felted coccid, an invasive bug species that’s quite literally sucking the life out of the state’s macadamia nut industry.
Other new funding includes $1.1 million for the first-ever Navy ROTC program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and $2 million in microgrants that can be used to help people in Hawaii grow more local food.
Schatz noted that the spending bill includes $92.2 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, some of which will go toward building an outpatient clinic in Hilo and expanding telehealth services that can benefit veterans living on the islands.
He also boasted of securing money for programs that Trump tried to cut in his own budget proposal, such as $36.9 million for Native Hawaiian education programs, $16.7 million for the East-West Center and $3.2 million in grants to preserve Japanese American internment camps, including the Honouliuli National Monument on Oahu.
Like Schatz, Case issued his own lengthy press release Tuesday — it was 37 pages long — that highlighted the many provisions in the spending bill that directly affect Hawaii or bring more money to its shores.
Case highlighted more than $300 million dollars in military construction projects that will be taking place on the islands from Kaneohe Bay to Pearl Harbor.
He also touted line items that provide more money to tackle homelessness and the continuation of federal funding of Brand USA, a tourism group that markets the U.S. to international travelers. Before he was elected in 2018, Case was an executive in Hawaii’s tourism industry.
The Hawaii congressman struck a somber note as well, while referencing the deal to give $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the effects of gun violence in America and how to prevent it.
Hawaii recently experienced a shooting rampage at the Pearl Harbor Shipyard that killed three, including two civilians and the gunman, a U.S. sailor who took his own life.
“Given the tragic gun violence of the last few weeks in our Hawai‘i, I am especially pleased that the bills provide significant funding for gun violence research nationwide to focus much more directly on this public health epidemic,” Case said.
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