Editor’s Note: Before the August 13 primary election in Hawaii, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about their stance on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
Next came from Steve Yoder, Republican nominee for State House District 16, which includes Wailua, Hanamaulu, Kapaa, Lihue, Puhi and Omao.
Visit the Civil Beat Election Guide for general information and see other candidates on the primary election ballot.
1. What is the biggest problem your district faces and what would you do about it?
The high cost of living in Hawaii is the biggest problem. The average family of four in Hawaii now pays $650 per month more in total expenses than on January 20, 2022.
Solution: Vote No to New Legislation That Increases Taxes and Fees for Hawaii’s Taxpayers; lobbying to repeal the 1920 Jones Act that drives up the cost of shipping goods to Hawaii.
2. Many people have been talking about diversifying the local economy for years, and yet Hawaii still relies heavily on tourism. What could possibly be done differently about tourism and the economy?
The government can lower rules and fees that hinder doing business in Hawaii. Hawaii has the second-highest total taxes of the 50 states, making it unlikely to do business.
3. An estimated 60% of Hawaii’s residents struggle to make ends meet, a problem that extends well beyond low income and is disappearing into the middle class. What ideas do you have for helping the middle class and working families who find it difficult to continue living here?
Repeal the Jones Act to reduce the cost of goods shipped to Hawaii; reduce state regulations and fees; lower taxes. Analogy: If Walmart raises its prices (taxes, regulations), they lower their sales and profits. If Walmart lowers their prices (taxes, regulations), they will increase their sales and profits. We should run our state like a business, not a bureaucracy.
4. Hawaii has the most skewed 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 for decisions? What do you see as the consequences of one-party control and how would you approach it?
You are asking the wrong party. It is up to the Democrats, the current majority, to ensure an exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability for decisions.
5. Hawaii is the only western state without a statewide citizens’ initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I would support the citizens’ initiative process to allow voters to vote on measures and proposals. I have seen too many times that one party, the Hawaii Democratic Party, ignores the testimony and will of the people.
6. Thanks to their war chest and name recognition, incumbent officials are almost always re-elected in Hawaii legislative races. Should there be term limits for state legislators, as there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?
Yes to term limits. The reason for doing this is the reason you gave; campaign war chests and name recognition. Holding office should not be a career taken for personal gain. Holding office should be a short-term service to the county and state. Spending too much time enjoying political power ultimately corrupts the very reason people serve in office.
7. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of prominent corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a committee to improve government transparency through ethical and lobbying reforms. What will you do to guarantee accountability to the legislator? Are you open to ideas like demanding the Sunshine Law and open records laws apply to the legislature or banning campaign contributions during the session?
Yes on both accounts. The press also has a responsibility in this regard.
8. How would you make the legislator more transparent and accessible to the public? Open Congressional Committees to the Public? Stricter disclosure requirements for lobbying and lobbyists? How could the legislator change its own internal rules to be more open?
Opening conference committee meetings to the public, sure. Again, the press plays a very important role in highlighting unfair and unscrupulous decisions in the legislature.
9. Hawaii has seen growing divisions when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. What would you do to bridge that gap and bring people together despite their differences?
Today, however well-informed the public is about health mandates, the government is pushing for draconian measures and mandates, i.e. wearing masks, canceling Kauai’s Fourth of July, and allowing other provincial parades, proving that people do not deserve freedom.
It leads to the conclusion that people are not allowed to make their own decisions, as in other countries; Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and China.
10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic inequality. If you could use 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 one big idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
You never commit a knee-jerk reaction to shutting down the entire economy. It’s amazing how things got shut down in Hawaii, but the government didn’t. Heads of government did not follow their own rules; sheer hypocrisy. They allowed themselves to live freely and yet they taxed the citizenry.
One big idea: inform the public about the danger and let them proceed to ensure their own safety. The One Big Idea is called freedom of choice.