VIDEO: Mayor Provides Maui Legislative Highlights
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CidTUB12w4U /] By Wendy Osher
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa expressed enthusiasm as the state Legislative session gets underway.
He joined the entire Maui delegation earlier this week in Honolulu as all nine council members attended the joint money committee hearing for the state House and Senate. “We had a very strong showing,” said Arakawa during an exclusive interview earlier this week.
Arakawa expressed solid support for funding the Kihei High School, saying a hard push is being made to back funding of the project.
He also touched upon items that Governor Neil Abercrombie included in his state of the state address on Monday, including early childhood education, job creation, Maui’s Smart Grid Project, environmental initiatives, and a proposal to make the TV and Film Tax Credit permanent.
The multi-million dollar Maui Smart Grid agreement was announced in November. It is aimed at improving integration of variable renewable resources, such as solar and wind power, and preparing the electric system for widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
The Smart Grid Project, Arakawa said, will not only play a role in cutting customer electric bills, but will also will highlight Maui’s role worldwide. The results of the experiments on Maui will be used worldwide, and that information will be shared internationally.
“The fact that our community was chosen to be the test project for the international community,” Arakawa said, is “tremendous.”
“Japan is sponsoring the Smart Grid Project to the tune of $37 million, and it’s happening here in Maui County because we’re prepared to do it, and because we’re one of the more advanced in the use of alternative energies,” said Mayor Arakawa.
The Governor also mentioned his recommendations to make permanent funding available for state film production tax credits.
A bill was introduced in the last legislative session seeking tax credits to help facilitate the construction of Film Production Studios in the islands. As the bill failed to pass this year, officials with the Maui Film Office reiterated that some form of state legislation is required for moving forward with the film industry on Maui.
“I believe we have great support for the bill to be finalized in coming out of the state legislature,” said Arakawa, who added, ” This will create, literally, hundreds and hundreds of jobs for our County.”
Arakawa said jobs could also come from alternative energy projects. “It will stop $6-8 billion of expenditures outside of the state to foreign countries. That money can be circulated within our communities,” he said.
Also in the area of job creation, the governor had mentioned support in his address for capital improvement projects, saying that by aggressively putting these projects into action, it will ensure that job creation continues.
Arakawa agreed that such effort could provide a boost for the construction industry and jobs for Maui County.
In terms of funding investment, the Governor announced proposals to invest $5 million to protect the state’s watersheds, and $1 million toward education and health initiatives.
Mayor Arakawa responded saying concentration on environmental protection could potentially help to address concerns over the axis deer population in Maui County.
Education initiatives raised in the State of the State Address included discussion on early child care and the Good Beginnings program.
“The Governor is stressing how important it is for us to be able to put more money into early child care and early education,” said Arakawa.
Arakawa spoke of the Good Beginnings program that started on Maui with the backing of then Council Chair Alice Lee. The program has since gone statewide and is among the programs overseen by former Maui resident, Terry Lock, who now serves as the state’s Early Childhood Coordinator.
“We’ve been preaching this for 20-years now. We want to see this program go statewide–nationally if possible, where all of our children are given an opportunity to go to preschool,” said Arakawa.
Arakawa said that an emphasis should be placed back on such programs along with many social service programs throughout the state.
Arakawa noted that specific legislation regarding projects on Maui would be presented by individual lawmakers supporting the proposals.
“I just appreciate the fact that–it’s been said over and over, Maui No Ka Oi–Maui is the best place, and the best community to live,” said Arakawa. “I truly believe that, and we’re getting the recognition statewide as having the highest quality of life.”