HAWAI`I BRACES ITSELF for a possible national default as the Aug. 2 deadline to increase the debt ceiling approaches with no agreement in sight. Talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner collapsed last week in the dispute over what services and what amount of services should be cut in return for Republican votes for increasing the debt ceiling. Gov. Neil Abercrombie met with financial leaders and members of his Cabinet to draw up plans that would help prepare the state for the immediate fallout of a national default. The main goal of the Governor will be that the state government cover any funding gaps that would arise should the federal government stop funding programs it contributes to in the state. This would include federal funding for hospitals, schools and national parks in Hawai`i. This funding would only be short-term, though, says Budget and Finance director Kalbert Young.
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helicopter pilots on Mauna Loa and
Mauna Kea. Photo from Big Island
IN THE MIDST OF GLOOMY ECONOMIC PROSPECTS, Hawai`i is the bearer of some good news. The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism released jobless claims figures from this month showing that the state saw jobless claims fall in the middle of July 14 percent lower than the number recorded one year ago. This decline was generally representative of all the counties of the state. The Big Island saw the greatest improvement in jobless claims, with a 16.1 percent decline. The Big Island was followed by O`ahu with 13.7 percent, Kaua`i with 12.2 percent, and Maui with 8.6 percent. Hawai`i enjoys the eighth lowest unemployment rate in the country, at six percent. The national unemployment rate hovers just above nine percent.
THE PUBLIC HEARINGS on the proposed `Aina Koa Pono biofuel refinery between Wood Valley and Pahala and the proposed biofuel farm on thousands of acres of pasture between Pahala and Na`alehu are scheduled on Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. at the State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona.
Here are more questions and answers from `Aina Koa Pono:
Have the crops and their management regimes (e.g., mechanical harvesting) been tested in a range of site, drought, and air quality conditions in Ka`u? The existing land has already demonstrated the ability to grow grasses. We will work with the USDA Farm Service Agency with their Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to develop the land for growing biomass. Selection of the best grasses is underway and will be an ongoing program throughout the life of the project .