- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation are applauding Hawaii’s take in the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill, which includes spending increases in nearly all categories for the Aloha State.

The deal approved Friday sets aside more than $469 million for military construction and infrastructure projects on the islands. That’s an increase of more than $200 million from last year, said Democratic U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“We’ve been able to convey to our colleagues how critical it is to invest in Hawaii as the Asia-Pacific rebalance becomes a reality,” Schatz said. “Without Hawaii, there’s no viable Asia-Pacific strategy, and I think some of my colleagues have focused for a very long time on Europe and the Middle East, and we’re educating them on how important Asia is for our country and how critical it is that Hawaii receive the federal investment necessary for us to execute our strategy.”

The legislation includes more than $250 million for health clinics at Schofield Barracks and the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe Bay. It also includes $30.6 million to change the electrical grid at Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.

“This omnibus package translates into real money for Hawaii,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, in a statement.

All four members of Hawaii’s delegation voted for the deal.

The bill permanently extends tax credits that could help 52,000 Hawaii families with more than 100,000 children, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said in a statement. It also extends for five years tax credits for people who install solar panels on their homes, Schatz said.

Hirono said she was disappointed in the repeal of the four-decade ban on exports of U.S. crude oil, which was an add-on to the budget bill.

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

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said she’s concerned about a portion of the bill that deals with cyber security. “While it attempts to improve our ability to address and prevent cyberattacks, there are loopholes within the language that may allow for the government to undermine the privacy and civil liberties of Americans,” Gabbard said in a statement.

The bill provides funds for the National Park Service to begin creating the new Honouliuli National Monument, which aims to tell the history of internment and martial law in Hawaii during World War II.

It also includes $250 million in funding for the Honolulu rail transit project.

Health care and education programs for Native Hawaiians will get $64 million. The East-West Center, which promotes relationships between the United States, Asia and Pacific nations, will get $16.7 million.

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, said she hopes state officials in charge of using federal money don’t leave anything on the table. “We will continue to pressure the various departments about maximizing the amount they can potentially get, because the last thing we want is … (to) not utilize completely what the federal government is providing the states,” Luke said.


Follow Cathy Bussewitz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbussewitz

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