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Hirono Credits President’s Commitment to Creating Jobs, Early Childhood Education, and Pursuing a Clean Energy Future

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After President Obama released a budget this afternoon that prioritizes creating jobs by investing in transportation infrastructure, early childhood education, and pursuing a clean energy future, Senator Mazie K. Hirono released the following statement:

The President’s budget has a number of provisions that would help create sustainable economic growth and jobs. His commitment to investing in transportation infrastructure is one that Hawaii is already benefitting from, as his budget includes $250 million to continue work on the Honolulu Rail Project. And the President’s plan to expand access to early childhood education is one of the smartest things we can do as a nation to secure our economic future. Under the President’s plan, Hawaii could apply for new federal matching funds to create and strengthen state early childhood programs.
The increased funding that the President requested for construction on Hawaii’s military installations is good news for our state, especially considering the fiscal realities our country faces. It is a sign that Hawaii is in a key position to play a major role in the military’s rebalance to the Pacific.
The Asia-Pacific region is vitally important to our nation’s strategic interests, and I’m glad to see the President’s budget reflects that national security imperative.

In addition, I’m encouraged that the President has outlined several initiatives that will support jobs and innovation in the clean energy arena, including continuing the progress on alternative energy and energy efficiency being made at the Department of Defense. These are forward-looking investments in our people and communities that will generate the long-term economic growth that will help Hawaii and the nation for years to come.

I do not, however, support his plan to institute what is known as “Chained CPI,” which would change how Social Security, Veterans’, and other benefits are calculated. I understand that President Obama has been pushed hard to include this change by Republicans, however, it amounts to a benefit cut to Hawaii seniors and veterans that I cannot support. Undermining the vital lifeline that these programs represent for many of our kupuna and veterans is not the way we should go about getting our fiscal house in order.

As Congress works to develop appropriations and other legislation to address our nation’s fiscal challenges and keep our economy moving, I will be pushing for other ways we can responsibly reduce our deficit while keeping our promises to our kupuna and keiki.

Hirono has been a longtime advocate for early childhood education, both in state government and in Washington. One of the first bills she introduced as a U.S. Senator was her PRE-K bill, which would expand access to quality early childhood education across the country.

She has also championed Department of Defense research into alternative fuel sources. Just yesterday, Senator Hirono discussed military alternative energy research conducted in the Asia-Pacific with the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command. Her first speech on the Senate floor fought back against Republican attempts to cut alternative energy initiatives in the military.

President Obama’s budget contained funding for important initiatives for Hawaii:

$250 Million In Rail Funding

·         The President continued his commitment to the Honolulu Rail Project by requesting $250 million for the project.

$44 Million Increase In Military Construction in Hawaii

·         The President requested $410 million for military construction in Hawaii.  The amount is $44 million more than in FY 2013.

o   Fort Shafter                                         75,000,000

o   Kaneohe Bay                                      236,982,000

o   Pearl City                                            30,100,000

o   Pearl Harbor                                        57,998,000

o   Pearl Harbor-Hickam                          4,800,000

o   Ford Island                                         2,615,000

o   Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam         2,800,000

Early Childhood Education

·         In his budget, the President lays out an early childhood education framework that is very similar to Senator Hirono’s PRE-K Act. This would provide federal matching funds to states to expand and improve quality preschool for 4-year-olds from low-income and middle-class families. With a strong state plan, Hawaii could apply for $750 million in FY14 for Preschool Development Grants, which could help states like Hawaii that don’t yet have a state program get up to speed.

Native Hawaiian Programs

·         The President requested over $34 million for the Native Hawaiian Education program, a competitive grant program administered by the United States Department of Education. This is the amount at which this program has been funded since FY 2012.

·         The President also requested $28 million for Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions of Higher Education.  This is the same amount as appropriated for this program in FY 2013, and is $3 million more than FY 2012.

·         The President requested $13 million for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant (NHHBG), a grant program administered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

·         The President requested $2 million for payments to the State of Hawaii for the treatment of Hansen’s disease.

Hawaii Vets

·         The President requested almost $16 million to provide the lease for a VA outpatient medical center on Leeward Oahu.