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Statement: Senator David Ige on Minimum Wage

Hawaii State Senator David Ige, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has issued the following statement regarding increasing of the minimum wage in Hawaii:

“We are committed to working with our counterparts in the House and the leadership of both chambers to ensure that we pass a minimum wage bill this legislative session. Currently, there is a bill still in conference that has carried over from the 2013 legislative session as well as new bills that have been introduced this year. I support increasing the minimum wage, and passing a bill as soon as possible this session.  We have Senate Bill 331 in conference committee and would be able to take action immediately once we have agreement on the bill.”


Governor Signs Bills to Protect Hawaii’s Homeowners

On June 28, 2012 Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law House Bill 1875, Relating to Foreclosures, and House Bill 2375, Relating to Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention.

House Bill 1875 implements the 2011 recommendations of the mortgage foreclosure task force and other best practices, to address various issues relating to the mortgage foreclosures law and issues affecting homeowner association liens and the collection of unpaid assessments. The measure also makes permanent the mortgage foreclosure dispute resolution program and the process for converting nonjudicial foreclosures of residential property into judicial foreclosures.

House Bill 2375 aims to increases consumer protection against fraudulent mortgage rescue services. Specifically this measure assists consumers by requiring the Office of Consumer Protection to educate consumers about fraudulent activities that may be committed against homeowners who face property foreclosures, liens, or encumbrances; and establishing criminal penalties and a mandatory fine for certain violations of the Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act.

WAM Chair Describes Key Aspects of the Senate’s Draft of the State Budget

Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means unanimously voted to pass the Senate’s version of the $11 billion supplemental budget for the State of Hawaii, House Bill (HB) 2012. Following three years of budget cuts totaling more than a billion dollars each year, this year’s budget provided the Senate with a refreshing opportunity to reinforce the safety net where needed, reinstitute core services that have been decimated over the past three years, and make strategic investments in key areas that can help us grow the economy and sustain a more prosperous future for Hawaii.

The Senate’s version of the budget is both responsible and responsive to the governor’s budget requests. Most of the governor’s initiatives have been funded, as they pertain to maintaining the safety net and restoring the ability of government to perform necessary functions.

The governor’s budget includes funding to significantly improve the infrastructure for information technology (IT) throughout state government, an area in which the Senate has led by example. The Senate’s budget includes more than $27 million dollars for critical infrastructure IT projects that will support increased efficiency in the transformation of state government. The Senate also supports the governor’s broadband initiative to improve services and deployment of broadband to ensure that each and every citizen has access.

The Senate also aims at strengthening the safety net, including adding funds for child welfare, domestic violence shelters, Medicaid, and various shortfalls across the Department of Human Services, including an additional $18.2 million directed at the temporary assistance for needy families program. In addition the Senate is supporting $3.6 million for information technology initiatives to modernize the Department of Human Services.

Notably, the Senate has underscored education as a top priority by adding $44 million to the Department of Education’s budget. Specifically, the Senate’s budget focuses on key areas of investment in education, including: the weighted student formula, student meals, the community school for adult program; early learning, and student transportation.

Following significant evaluations of the Charter School system, the Legislature has a measure this year to rewrite the charter school law. This is also reflected in the Senate budget. To ensure equal appropriations for the public schools and the charter schools, the Senate added about $1 million dollars to assist in the transition plan and its implementation, as well as equal per pupil operating funding based on project enrollment.

After years of neglect in our public libraries the Senate appropriated $500,000 for e-books, books, and other circulatory materials for our state libraries. This is the first appropriation for new circulation materials in the last four years.

The Senate’s version of the 2012 Supplemental Budget seeks to move the State forward, protect safety net services, and make strategic investments that will advance our economy.

To view video click here.

WAM Chair Talks About Committee’s Decision to Hold the “Dream Act”

Senator David Y. Ige, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, explained the committee’s decision to hold House Bill 1457, known as Hawaii’s version of the federal “Dream Act.” The measure, which passed out of the Senate Committee on Education on March 19, 2012, would allow Hawaii high school graduates without lawful immigration status to receive state funded financial aid and resident tuition at the University of Hawaii.

Senator Ige stated, “It really has been a difficult issue for me and the committee to deal with…On the one hand, we do believe that all of our students should have access to higher education. And for those undocumented immigrants, who have lived in Hawaii and attended our high schools, that all of them should have access to our higher education system at the residential rate. These are taxpaying citizens who contribute considerably to our communities.”

Senator Ige further explained, “Twelve years ago, I led the charge to provide more flexibility to the University and we eliminated all mandated tuition waivers and gave full authority of tuition to the Board of Regents…. We’ve decided to hold this measure and respectfully request that the Regents take up this issue because I truly believe that this is an issue that the Regents should decide. If in fact we don’t see any action we can take it up as a policy matter.”

To view video click here.

The Time Is Right to Invest in Hawaii

By Senator Brickwood Galuteria, Senate Majority Leader
Senator David Y. Ige, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means
Senator Michelle N. Kidani, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Oversees Capital Improvement Projects for the Senate

The time to invest in Hawaii’s future is now.  The Hawaii State Senate firmly believes this as evidenced by its recent unanimous and bipartisan passage of The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012, Senate Bill 2012.  This measure is an aggressive $500 million general obligation bond-funded Capital Improvement Program package that will create jobs by investing and stimulating our local economy from all corners of the State and can become available as soon as it is passed out of the House and the Governor signs the bill.

The need for capital improvements authorized by Senate Bill 2012 is great.  There is a backlog of over $1 billion in repair and maintenance projects for aging State facilities, from schools to hospitals. The measure aims to significantly reduce the repair and maintenance backlog list at 225 schools statewide and all 10 University of Hawaii campuses. The improvements will extend the useful life of State facilities and put people to work right away by fixing roofs and windows, and other basic essential repairs. The investment now will far outweigh the cost in the future, mitigating the need to fund replacements and reducing other future maintenance costs.

Making improvements to our State facilities now is cost effective. With Hawaii currently experiencing the lowest interest rates in recorded history, significant savings have accrued from the State’s most recent bond issuance.  Additionally, many bids for construction work are coming in significantly below budget.  According to an assessment from the University of Hawaii, repair and maintenance bids have come in about 18 percent below what was estimated over the past six months. This means taxpayers are currently getting an excellent value for construction projects now being implemented.

Another top priority of the bill is to develop sustainable and renewable energy resources, such as photovoltaic technology.  Investing in renewable energy and upgrades to information technology initiatives throughout schools, hospitals and office buildings will ultimately lead to cost savings and a reduction of the State’s carbon footprint. For example, photovoltaic projects currently underway at 15 Kauai schools are expected to save the Department of Education an estimated $30 million over the life of the project while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Among the significant benefits of addressing the capital improvement needs contemplated in Senate Bill 2012 are the thousands of jobs that will be created for our unemployed and under-employed workers. While our economy is showing signs of stabilization, the unemployment rate is still high, at over six percent.  The construction industry has been particularly hit hard during the recession.  Hundreds of workers have been without a job for years. In Kona, times have been tough for 85 percent of its union members. Many are financially strapped; some face foreclosure.   Their counterparts statewide share in their struggles.

The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012 will give a big boost to the economy and put people to work by appropriating funds for shovel-ready jobs for all trades in the construction industry – from carpenters to consultants.  Small and large companies would be able to bid on jobs through an expedited State procurement process.  According to estimates by DBEDT’s job multiplier, this measure could create or sustain more than 5,000 jobs.   That means jobs that will put money in workers’ pockets, which will in turn mean spending in our local economy.

This bill will benefit everyone as it gets our economic engine running again.  The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012 creates a win-win situation for all.  The time is now to invest in Hawaii for our future.


Senate Ways and Means Committee Passes SB 2986

OAHU – The Senate Ways and Means Committee passed Senate Bill (SB) 2986 on Thursday, February 23, 2012, extending the sunset date on Act 198 of 2009 for five years from 2012 through 2017.  SB 2986 recognizes and affirms the Senate’s belief that utilities like Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) that use environmentally cleaner naptha fuel for power generation should continue to realize reduced tax requirements.

In proposing an extension of five years instead of the previous three, Ways and Means Chair Senator David Y. Ige, stated, “As part of our state-wide site visits this past interim, I was able to visit the KIUC facility and meet with the directors and employees.  During these discussions, KIUC’s concerns relating to this issue were raised and a determination was made that a five year extension was more appropriate at this time.”

Senator Ronald D. Kouchi added that, “I would like to thank Ways and Means Chair David Ige for taking the time to visit Kauai to get a firsthand look at our concerns and problems.  KIUC’s  lower tax rate will save Kauai cooperative members approximately five million dollars a year, which is a great help to our residents paying one of the highest kilo watt cost in the state.”

The bill now goes before the full Senate for a floor vote on March 6, 2012 before crossing over to the House of Representatives.

Senator David Y. Ige Offers Remarks on Senate Bill 2819

This afternoon, Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair David Y. Ige explained Senate Bill 2819, relating to the sales of electronic cigarettes. The committee heard testimony on the bill earlier today, on February 8, 2012. The bill places e-cigarettes with other tobacco products as items prohibited to be sold to a minor and amends the definition of “tobacco products” for purposes of taxation. For more information about the bill and to view the bill’s status, click here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=2819&year=2012.

Decision making on the measure has been deferred until Friday, February 10, 2012 at 11:00 am in conference room 211.

Senators Brief the Media on Senate Bills 239

Senator Michelle Kidani, who oversees all Capital Improvement Program projects for the Senate and serves as Senate Committee on Ways and Means Vice Chair, and Senator David Y. Ige, Senate Committee on Ways and Means chair, briefed the media on the passage of Senate Bill 809. The bill was passed on final reading by both the Senate and the House Chambers on January 30, 2012.

Senate Bill 809 increases University of Hawaii (UH) authorization to issue revenue bonds from a total principal amount not to exceed $200 million to a total amount not to exceed $300 million to fund UH construction projects, which would stimulate the economy and generate construction jobs. Upon passage of the bill, UH will query the campuses to compile a listing for the use of the appropriation and plans to start projects no later than Spring 2012. One of the projects that will benefit is the Culinary Institute at Kapiolani Community College, which will finally be able to begin construction.

To view the video click here.

Hawaii State Senate Introduces Bipartisan Bill Aimed at Stimulating Economy

HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Senate is united in support of Senate Bill 2012, which will be formally introduced and referred to its respective committee during Session this morning, Friday January 27, 2012.   Garnering bipartisan support, Senate Bill 2012, also known as “The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012,” is an aggressive general obligation bond-funded $500 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) package aimed at creating jobs by investing and stimulating our local economy from all corners of the state, from Hilo to Hanalei.

With Hawaii experiencing the lowest interest rates on record and significant savings made from the State’s most recent bond authorization and issuance, now is the time to invest in our State. The program will create shovel-ready jobs for all trades in the construction industry – from carpenters to consultants.  According to conservative estimates by the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism’s  (DBEDT) job multiplier, this measure could create or sustain up to 4,000 direct jobs.

Investing now in needed State capital projects will have a direct positive impact on our economy.  With interest rates at a historic low, there has been no better time to make a significant investment in our State’s infrastructure, said Sen. David Y. Ige, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Projects to be considered should focus on smaller repair and maintenance projects to address aging infrastructures and to extend the useful life of existing state-owned assets and facilities.  Projects should also include those that address health and safety code concerns.  State departments that have been identified as part of the Program are:  the Department of Education, including the State Public Library System; the University of Hawaii, including athletic facilities; the Department of Accounting and General Services; the Department of Agriculture; the Department of Defense; the Department of Health, and health care facilities of the Hawaii Health Systems, the Department of Human Services; the Department of Land and Natural Resources; the Department of Public Safety and the Judiciary.  Funding will be distributed depending on the individual department’s needs and ability to commence work immediately.

Another priority of the bill is to develop sustainable and energy resources, such as photovoltaic technology.  Investing in renewable energy and upgrades to information technology initiatives throughout schools, hospitals, and office buildings will ultimately lead to cost savings and a reduction of the State’s carbon footprint.

This bill encourages the use of energy efficient materials whenever possible in the projects.  It’s important that we invest in alternative energy throughout our State facilities now to save tax payers money in the future,” said Sen. Michelle Kidani, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

In order to expedite the backlogged repair and maintenance projects, Senate Bill 2012 would make revisions to the State’s permitting, approval and procurement process.  As a result, the accelerated process would get workers off the bench and on the job immediately, putting more money in workers’ pockets.  With this jolt in the economy, the safety net would be improved and a wide range of social and educational services would be provided.

“The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012” is expected to be heard by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means in the upcoming weeks.

For more information on Senate Bill 2012 go to: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/.

Senator David Y. Ige Explains Key Restorations in the State Budget

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