President Barack Obama unveiled his fiscal year 2016 budget Monday at the Department of Homeland Security.
While many Republicans blasted Obama’s ideas as backward, Hawaii’s Democratic Congressional delegation supported his plan, which they say prioritizes the middle class.
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono:
“Many of the priorities laid out in the President’s budget reflect a commitment to stand on the side of middle class families, with key investments in research and innovation, early and higher education, national security, military construction, veterans and infrastructure. These will help create jobs and accelerate economic growth while the reforms to our broken tax system will make sure everyone pays their fair share.
“As a member of armed services and intelligence, I continue to advocate for Hawaii’s major role in the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. The budget also includes project and priorities to support a sustainable future in Hawaii and across the country, like Hawaii’s ‘Islands Forests at Risk’ Collaborative Landscape, which will provide crucial protection of native species and their habitats and is the first time Hawaii’s application has ranked in the top three proposals to receive current and permanent funding. I look forward to working with the delegation to ensure these priorities are funded.”
Sen. Brian Schatz:
“The President’s budget proposal lays out a clear path forward to ensure that our economy continues its recovery and that our economic priorities are focused on strengthening and expanding the middle class. I am pleased that the President has made clear that we should put an end to the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, and invest in research and development, a strong national defense, education, and our nation’s infrastructure.
“The budget proposal creates a fairer tax system by ending some tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent in order to provide more resources for middle-class workers and their families, clean energy programs, and investments in education programs like universal pre-K and affordable community college. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the appropriations committee to protect Hawaii’s priorities and build a stronger economy for our middle class.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:
“We have far too many families all across Hawai’i, who are struggling just to break into the middle class so they can take care of their families and provide for their keiki, while across the country, the power and wealth lies in the hands of a very few special interests and Wall Street banks. The budget that President Obama has presented to Congress focuses on closing tax loopholes for special interests and the mega-rich, investing in infrastructure for our communities, and ending the inflexible across-the-board sequester cuts that have had a crippling effect on our military’s readiness. However, there are portions of this budget that I oppose and which give me great concern. As Congress examines and amends this budget, I will continue to advocate for the unique needs of Hawai’i families, and oppose provisions which disproportionately negatively affect Hawai’i residents, like the proposed increase to airline fees which burdens our families and hurts our economy. States like Hawai’i, where air travel is the only option for necessary inter-island travel, must be exempt from these rate hikes.”
Rep. Mark Takai:
“President Obama has laid out a bold commitment to help working class families, boost education, improve America’s infrastructure and ensure national security. Hawaii will benefit from many of the proposals that were outlined today.
“I am glad to see proposals to increase spending on STEM education, make preschool more accessible, and increase access to affordable college education by granting students free tuition at two-year community college programs. All of these initiatives will provide our sons and daughters the knowledge and skills they require for future upward economic mobility.
“I reiterate my call to find a remedy from the harmful cuts of sequestration, for both defense and non-defense spending. If spending were to be enacted at the levels proposed within the budget, without further action from Congress, then mindless, across-the-board cuts would affect programs at every level and cause harm to our economy and national security. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find responsible solutions to the issue of sequestration.”
President Obama’s budget requests funding for the following initiatives for Hawaii:
Military construction: $444 million for military construction projects in Hawaii, $244 million more than requested in last year’s budget and includes:
- Over $245 million in Defense Health Agency investments to replace the medical/dental clinic at Kaneohe Bay and for behavioral health and dental clinic additions at Schofield Barracks.
- $106 million for projects at Kaneohe Bay including airfield lighting modernization, housing, and support facilities.
- $30 million for power grid consolidation at Pacific Missile Range Facility
- $60.8 million for projects at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham including the F-22 Fighter Alert Facility, welding school shop consolidation, and others.
Veterans Affairs: $70.2 billion in funding for the Veterans Administration, a $5.1 billion increase from last year. The budget request supports the following investments in Hawaii:
- $26 million for National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific improvements (continued funding from FY14)
- $15.8 million for Advance Leeward Outpatient Health Care Access (ALOHA) Center (project status: land acquisition process initiated).
- $9.9 million for construction of new replacement of Kauai Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC).
- $1.5 million for renovation and realignment of first floor of Honolulu Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office (FY16 Minor Construction project).
Transportation: Full funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program, which funds the Honolulu Rail Project.Education:
- Native Hawaiian Education Program: $33 million, a $1 million increase from last year.
- Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions of Higher Ed (ANNH): $12.8 million.
- Asian-American and Native American-Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI): $3.1 million.
- Approximately $12 million for Native Hawaiian health care.
- $1.5 billion in funding for community health centers, approximately the same as last year. This funding is distributed to health centers across the country including for Hawaii’s 14 community health centers.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
- National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program: $14.7 million that will support the operations of two Tsunami Warning Centers (Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska), targeted research and development and international coordination activities.
- Atmospheric Baseline Observatories (ABOs): $10.2 million, an increase of $3 million from last year, to support and maintain 50+ years of sustained observations and research at NOAA’s six ABO’s, including Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.
Agriculture: Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI): About $286 million to protect plant health with an increase of $2 million for the AQI program to provide the necessary staffing, canine teams and equipment replacement needed to adequately inspect baggage bound for the continental U.S. from Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Energy: Approximately $2.5 million for Hawaii energy programs including the State Energy Program, Weatherization Assistance and energy research programs.
East-West Center: $10.8 millionHomeland Security:
- Air Station Barbers Point Utility Renovation: $20 million for a new electrical distribution system and related systems at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point.
- National Domestic Preparedness Consortium: $42 million to support the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium, which includes the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawaii.
- Emergency Supply Distribution Centers: $4.5 million to support an inventory of life saving and life sustaining commodities and equipment such as cots, blankets, emergency meals, bottled water, and other items for disaster response purposes at the nine distribution centers across the U.S., including one in Hawaii.
Small business administration: $2 million for outreach to Native American communities, including Native Hawaiian organizations