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Senate passes budget bill with hundreds of millions for Hawaii

Congress has sent President Barack Obama a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill that includes hundreds of millions for Hawaii.

The Senate today voted 72-26 for the measure, which cleared the House a little more than 24 hours earlier on a similarly lopsided vote. Obama's signature on the bill was expected in time to prevent any interruption in government funding Saturday at midnight.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said the appropriations bill includes more than $744 million that will go directly to Hawaii priorities, and more than $1 billion for defense programs benefiting Hawaii, with $392 million for military construction in the state. The bill includes:

>> $250 million for Honolulu's rail project in fiscal 2014. 

>> $16.7 million in funding for the East-West Center in Manoa;

>> A total of $89.4 million for Native Hawaiian housing, healthcare and education programs;

>> And about $165 million for Hawaii's highways.

After the bill passed the House Wednesday, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) touted its benefits for the islands. "In defense spending, funding for programs that help veterans, children, working families and Native Hawaiians, as well as infrastructure investments, Hawaii did well," she said. "Given the current economy and the atmosphere in Washington, we are in pretty good shape."

Schatz said today, "I am deeply appreciative that we were able to work with Senate appropriators to protect or increase funding for the East-West Center, transportation, Native Hawaiian health care and education, clean energy, and defense programs."

Hanabusa noted that the bill's support for several military programs in Hawaii reflects the islands importance in the U.S. defense strategy to rebalance its focus on the Asia-Pacific region. 

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) lauded the bill's passage "as a true compromise" that includes "hard-fought provisions that will benefit Hawaii." 

"I am pleased the Appropriations Committee took into consideration some of Hawaii's key priorities, from expanding preschool to supporting our state's farmers to increasing quality medical care for our veterans," she said.

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