Friday | February 24, 2017
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Green favors education, health issues

With only one-quarter of state legislators hailing from neighbor islands, the fight to keep funding for school buses has been an ongoing one, Green said.

Oahu legislators “haven’t recognized fully the challenges” of getting students from home to rural schools.

Green said he’s taken the plea for adequate bus funding to the governor, explaining the Department of Education needs twice as much funding for buses as it is now getting.

The best way to improve Hawaii’s schools, he said, is to “reward strong teachers with good salaries,” particularly those teachers who pursue additional educational and training opportunities.

He didn’t offer any specific funding mechanisms for those needs.

The state can provide incentives to encourage more private sector geothermal development, he said.

“It’s a cleaner energy source for the most part, and technologies are better all the time,” he said.

That development should bring down Hawaii Island’s electricity prices by 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.

But for prices to come down, Green said it’s likely necessary to have an interisland, undersea cable that would allow Hawaii Island to export its excess energy to the state’s largest electricity market on Oahu.

“We can have an industry that can be profitable locally,” Green said. “It can be done.”

He said as a doctor and the Senate’s Health Committee chairman, he would like to be sure health safeguards are in place as geothermal production expands.

Related to energy costs, he brought up requests from West Hawaii constituents to intervene with Hawaii Electric Light Co. on their behalf when they want to install photovoltaic systems on their homes.

Green said he has only supported Public Utilities Commission nominees who are willing to push HELCO to invest in renewable resources.

When he gets the chance to speak with HELCO officials, “I am direct about the cost (of energy) being too high on the Big Island,” he said.

The process is a slow one, he said.

He’s been pushing for changes since 2006, only recently seeing any movement toward more alternative energy development.

While he doesn’t have a problem with “sin taxes” on things like cigarettes or alcohol, Green said he has a record of voting against most tax increases.

His record also includes writing — and receiving — grants for millions of dollars in capital improvement funds for West Hawaii. Projects he’s advocated in the last two years include $11.5 million for the Kona Judiciary complex planning process, $7.5 million for the Palamanui college campus and $10 million for state hospitals.

Bills he wrote and helped pass this session included one creating a Hawaii Health Corps, a hospital sustainability bill and a long-term care sustainability bill, which brings another $64 million in federal funds to Kona Community Hospital, North Hawaii Community Hospital, Ka‘u Hospital and Kohala Hospital.

The impetus for some of his bills, such as one that takes effect this year allowing women to request a mammogram from any provider without a referral, comes from patients he treats and other community members, he said.