Editor’s Note: For the August 13 primary elections in Hawaii, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer a few questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities would be if elected.
The following came from Dan Johnson, Republican candidate for State House District 12, which includes Keahua, Haliimaile, Pukalani, Makawao, Pulehu, Waiakoa, Keokea and Ulupalakua.
See Civil Beat’s election guide for general information and learn about the other candidates in the primary ballot.
1. What is the biggest problem facing your district and what would you do about it?
The biggest issue for our district and the state as a whole is the rising cost of living.
We need to encourage home ownership, reduce taxes (because our leadership in the state gives us residents one of the highest tax burdens in the country), encourage the growth of local small businesses, and we need to eliminate GET fees on food sales to reduce cost of living. .
For District 12 in particular, we also have a serious infrastructure problem when it comes to water. This issue is twofold with water distribution rights and water supply. Maui’s backcountry is one of the largest agricultural producers in the state, and for years was supplied primarily by surface water from stream diversions. We have also experienced a ridiculously long waiting list (no longer taking requests) to acquire a new water meter for properties of all categories.
Although water distribution is primarily a county responsibility, I would like to encourage cross-government coordination to get the state to step in and help a failing system of critical infrastructure. We should encourage any new development to run the proper infrastructure to irrigate lawns, fields and crops with reclaimed water only so that we don’t waste our drinking water on this sort of thing.
2. Many people have been talking about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii still relies heavily on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently regarding tourism and the economy?
The 2020 lockdowns have shown us two key areas where our state leadership has failed us and is unprepared. We are overly reliant on tourism, and at one point last year Maui County had the highest unemployment rate in the country due to the state shutdown. It is a consequence of “putting all our eggs in one basket”. We also need to ensure that the executive branches of government do not have the power to make unanimous decisions to force its citizens to shut down their businesses.
Instead, we need to encourage local agriculture and small farms. When Hawaii became a state, we were primarily an agricultural state. I would support the allocation of public funds for low-interest loans for local agriculture and food production to invest in their businesses and acquire any equipment or land needed to grow.
3. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling, a problem that goes well beyond low income and into the disappearing middle class. What ideas do you have for helping middle class and working class families struggling to continue living here?
Our state ranks last in terms of adjusted cost of living.
To help with housing prices, I would offer a capital gains tax credit or rebate to homeowners who sell to a Hawaiian intending to own. This would create a buffer between wealthy foreigners who are willing to pay the asking price for a property and local families who put together a huge down payment. I would like to go further by imposing a tax on the sale of real estate to foreign entities.
Shipping costs and dependence on imports are a contributing factor to our rising cost of living and, therefore, the inflated cost of doing business in Hawaii. This unfortunately took us out of the export market.
One of our state’s biggest exports is scrap metal, which shows how much of it we actually produce. Combine that with the fact that over 90% of what we consume is shipped, and you can do some simple math to see that we’re paying freighters to return empty containers and they’re probably burying that cost in whatever is shipped to Hawaii.
So if we can export more goods, we could reduce shipping costs for other goods at all levels.
4. Hawaii has the most lopsided legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and just four in the House. How would you ensure an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability of decisions? What do you see as the consequences of single-party control, and how would you address them?
Every public servant should focus on what they believe is best for their constituents and their community. We often disagree on how to get things done, but we need to be open to other ideas and not be closed minded and just reject another opinion or point of view based on their party. alone without taking the time to listen and understand the reasons.
Hawaii voted Democrat for decades, and there weren’t many Conservative or Republican votes. If a party governs without the necessary checks and balances, it can lead to many of the problems we face today where only one side’s priorities are addressed.
I will seek to advance the interests of the residents of our state in relation to multinational corporations and party politics. Some of the opinions I have will have to be debated with “across the aisle”, but I will seek to explore an open discussion with this central goal of what is best for the residents of Hawaii and to make my case the best possible for the concerns of my community.
5. Hawaii is the only western state without a statewide citizens’ initiative process. Do you support such a process?
This question is a bit misleading, as there are 24 states in the country that do not have a citizens’ initiative process, according to BallotPedia.org. However, I believe that our constitutional system was set up to be more of a republic than a democracy and we should not encourage the usurpation of the legislative process. So I do not support a citizens’ initiative.
Also, if you think your legislators are not representing you properly, it would be wise to elect someone else who does. It also goes back to the unbalanced representation we have in Hawaii and highlights the fact that we need change.
6. Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in legislative races in Hawaii. Should there be term limits for state legislators, like there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?
I would strongly support term limits. This will encourage civil servants to renew themselves more frequently and obtain a greater representation of the population. It will also make it harder for people of ill will who seek personal gain to maintain positions of authority and influence.
7. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of significant corruption scandals, prompting the state’s House of Representatives to appoint a commission to improve government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability in the Legislative Assembly? Are you open to ideas like requiring Sunshine Law and open records laws to apply to the Legislative Assembly or prohibiting campaign contributions during the session?
I would support a law to enforce accountability at all levels of public servants and believe it should also extend to unelected officials with authority and influence. I would support the requirement for open records of all elected officials and be eligible for audits if something goes wrong.
To quote the scripture, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. – Matthew 6:21.
8. How would you make the legislature more transparent and accessible to the public? Opening of conference committees to the public? Stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists? How could the Legislature change its own internal rules to be more open?
There should be more opportunities for public testimony, and we should use the technology we have to allow residents who don’t live on Oahu to be able to provide more frequent testimony via Zoom or programs that allow teleconferencing.
We seem to have no problem allowing lobbyists to make their case, but we should provide more public information on how to access proceedings and post more public notices of hearings and forum opportunities. open to questions.
9. Hawaii has seen growing division on politics, development, health mandates and other issues. What would you do to bridge these gaps and bring people together despite their differences?
I strongly oppose the current executive privileges in place. We must enact legislation that requires the state justice system to review any emergency orders and enforce strict consequences for abuse, including revocation if necessary.
It should not be the burden of a citizen having to sue for violation of their freedoms, but rather the obligation of another branch of government to review and provide the necessary checks and balances while allowing the execution branch to act quickly in the event of a real emergency. .
I believe that we must respect each individual’s personal decision to make their own health choices, and the role of the state should be to inform, educate and guide, not to mandate and confine basis of a prevailing opinion. Each person should be allowed to act according to what they are convinced of in their own conscience.
10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, ranging from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share a great idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
As mentioned earlier, we are too dependent on one industry (tourism). We must seek to diversify our own economy and encourage local agriculture and food production so that we are not also so dependent on imports. We can do this by reducing food taxes, small business profits and encouraging investment in our local industry.
If we ever run into another situation where we have restricted industry, or if the freighters stop coming, we will be in big trouble if our residents have to rely on the state’s current food production.
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