Lawmakers in Congress and Hawaii discuss rail and healthcare funding

The future of rail and healthcare were some of the many topics discussed at a town hall meeting Saturday morning with United States Sen. Mazie Hirono (D).

Many who turned out asked what’s next?

Hirono told KHON2 she’s speaking up for these issues in Washington. But simply put, Hirono said when it comes to both of these topics, everyone just needs to work together.

It was a packed house at the town hall meeting and healthcare was one of the most talked about issues.

“I have never seen a more opportune time in American history to push for universal healthcare. If not now, when?” asked a constituent.

Hirono said her fight is on improving the current Affordable Care Act.

“Seniors are going to see a lot of out-of-pocket expenses for drugs that they currently don’t have. Medicaid expansion will go away. That’s going to impact thousands and thousands of people in Hawaii,” Hirono said. “In the meantime, believe me, I will be spending a lot of my time, my energy, fighting Trumpcare because that is a clear and present danger right now.”

Also on the list of concerns, funding for the rail project.

“I’ve already asked the federal government, the federal DOT, to consider providing more money for rail and that is not in the cards,” Hirono said.

She said both sides need to come together and Republican State Representative Andria Tupola agrees.

Tupola said more talks need to happen before a special session is even considered.

“In the event that people want this to end, the goal is to get this project funded then the city council and the legislature has to come to the table and say this is absolutely what I will not give up, you know, put all your non-negotiables on the table and then go from there,” Tupola said. “I think we should have a broader conversation about whether this is a city or a state project anymore.”

Many viewers wanted to know so KHON2 asked if state lawmakers could establish a lottery system to fund the rail.

Tupola said it’s not that simple.

“A bunch of administrative rules would have to be proposed, money would have to be allocated for positions to run it, and then there’d have to be some type of standards and outcome to see if the money that is collected from the lottery is even sufficient to fund this,” Tupola said.

Hirono told KHON2 she just voted for a bill a couple of days ago that does provide the rest of the federal funding for rail.

Be sure to stay with KHON2 as we continue to follow this story.

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