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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, October 11, 2001

The September 11th attack
Lawmakers now back Cayetano's construction stimulus plan

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Legislative leaders reversed themselves yesterday and said they now support Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal to launch up to $1 billion in construction projects to bolster the state's economy.

Included would be the new University of Hawai'i medical school in Kaka'ako and UH campus in West O'ahu.

House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Robert Bunda said they are looking at alternative ways to pay for major projects and still avoid big increases to the state's debt.

"I'm going to be very optimistic that we can afford all of it," Say said.

Bunda, D-22nd (Wahiawa, Waialua, Sunset Beach), said senators are willing to look at public works in the range of $500 million to $1 billion.

The House and Senate are still negotiating what projects would be included, according to Say.

When the governor called for $1 billion in construction projects, Say and Bunda balked, saying that would add too much to the state's debt.

Say, D-18th (Palolo, St. Louis, Kaimuki), now says options like special-purpose revenue bonds, design-build and lease back, and a certificate of participation to finance projects make them possible.

House and Senate leaders met yesterday to find common ground on emergency legislation to be proposed at a special five-day session set to begin Oct. 22. It is intended to help businesses and workers affected by the economic slump caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

Say and Bunda said Cayetano's proposals that he be given a $1 million contingency fund and additional emergency powers, such as controlling health insurance rates, will be controversial.

Cayetano wants power to quickly change the rules on state purchases and terms of state leases and tax measures.

"Everyone understands we are in an emergency situation that has to be dealt with with emergency powers," said Attorney General Earl Anzai, who briefed lawmakers on the proposal on Tuesday.

Bunda said: "We need to look at how much discretion we give the governor (on powers over state security, economic development, unemployment insurance and other areas). We need to look at the length of time that he has in order to get things rolling as far as the economy is concerned."

It is hoped that the House and Senate, including the Republican minority in both houses, will reach agreement by the end of this week on proposed legislation for the special session, Say said.

"Then we can go upstairs and talk to the governor," he said.

While the state is expected to face a major financial shortfall because of the slowdown in the economy, there have been no proposals to increase taxes or to cut government jobs, Say said.