Elephant in the Room
with Steve Jackson
The Hawaii Independent’s conservative columnist Steve Jackson sat down with Tito Montes, a Republican candidate for State Senate District 20, which encompasses Ewa Beach, Ewa, West Loch, lower Waipahu, and Honouluili. Here are the questions and answers:
What would be your top priority if elected to State Senate District 20?
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. We need to create incentives for business. Even though we rank 48th in business climate, opposition to incentives or tax decreases say that the job market is not that bad. They claim successes in luring the Wal-Marts, Targets, Petco’s, Jamba Juices, and the new Disneyland complex. The same people who claim to be against the evil corporations create a climate where corporations or franchises are the only ones who can do business.
I think that our youth, after graduation, would rather see job prospects outside of the retail world and expect real earning potential. How do we keep our Keiki? Provide opportunity for success. We can’t expect them to stay if we cannot provide the same opportunities as successful communities in the “mainland.”
To decrease the tax impact on the lower and middle classes, I believe that we should get rid of the General Excise Tax (GET) on food, rent and medicine. Lower and middle class folks are already struggling to meet the demands of Hawaii’s cost of living; we cannot expect them to pay a higher burden through excessive excise taxes.
Also, we should double the marginal income levels for each tax bracket. We have one of the worst tax brackets in the United States. It’s excessive and the most expensive state tax in the nation.
In Hawaii, about 80 percent of jobs are from small businesses; about 60 percent of revenue to the State is from small businesses ... We need to reduce their costs to increase employment.
We should reduce the unemployment tax on small businesses, one which was increased to cover State shortfalls. Small businesses also suffered from increases on shipping and small vehicle fees. How do we expect them to expand and hire if they face constant tax increases to cover the State’s excessive spending?
A general trend among small businesses is a fear to expand or increase hiring; they never know what the next year’s session will do to cover their shortfalls. Businesses can’t afford to hire, individuals can’t afford to hire businesses. No one knows what’s next and it kills any opportunity for state growth.
What would you do to improve the education system?
The education system needs to be revamped, not just tweaked so that the status-quo continues and the same people who’ve been making mistakes stay in power. We need to decentralize the education system so that power returns to the local principals, who can make better and more precise decisions with on-hand knowledge rather than receiving decisions from an inefficient, ineffective, bureaucracy.
We need to clean up the budget with a complete top to bottom audit of the Department of Education. Recently the DOE budgeted $2.4 million for substitute janitorial services, while only $800,000 for substitute teachers ... It just doesn’t make sense and my opponent hasn’t done enough to provide the accountability Hawaii needs.
Hawaii is the only fully centralized school system in the country. There are around 250 schools and a very limited number of DOE members. There is too much lag in decision-making and parents are not as involved as they could be if decisions were made on the lower levels.
I trust our principals to be qualified enough to have full budgetary responsibility of the line items of their schools. We should have local school boards with parent input and parent organizations ... empower people on the lower levels to improve schools.
There should be a complete curricular review on the local level. I have spoken to teachers, one of which had a big issue with time to task measurement. She expressed her frustration with the small amount of time allotted to actual education ... too much talk-story, not enough education.
It all boils down to politicians at the State level providing a more efficient system—one that creates accountability, and allows teachers and principals to do what we pay them to do.
Are there any issues specific to District 20 that you feel better qualified than your opponent to provide leadership on?
My opponent wants to develop 13,000 more homes for Hoopili in the Ewa Beach area on agricultural land. I don’t think that the Ewa area has the infrastructure to sustain the growth. One of the reasons I don’t believe expansion should happen is that Geiger Road needs to be redone. How can we pay for expansion if we can’t support the population we have and maintain proper infrastructure?
I also feel that the Leeward, Ewa Beach bike path was pushed to the backburner—It was 1999 when there was $4 million dollars allotted to create it. Unfortunately, leaders shuffled the funding around and reallocated that money elsewhere.
It’s a travesty that House Bill 2311, a bill allowing residents in community associations to fly the American flag, wasn’t passed last session; I will pursue its passage if elected.
The State Senate representative should be fighting for dollars for Ewa Beach. We have to fight to make sure Ewa Beach is represented. We can’t let committee chairs or party leaders dictate what representatives fight for. State reps and State senators shouldn’t take orders from anyone accept the constituents in the district.
How do you feel about House Bill 444?
I am completely against civil unions or gay marriage. I believe that the rights the LGBT community seeks are already provided in the State’s equal beneficiary laws. I think that allowing civil unions paves the way for gay marriage, providing no added legal benefits. There should be no compromising the definition of traditional marriage; constituents have stated it and even staunch Democrats acknowledged it through their voting records this session. If there is ever any issue of property rights, visitation rights, or living will decisions for the LGBT community, I will be on their side. I firmly feel that their rights are guarded by the current law.
What’s your opinion on rail?
The decision has already been made; if the rail makes it through the legal process I will make sure that the money is spent where it is supposed to be spent. However, if budgetary estimates keep inflating, ridership estimates keep moving higher, and station locations don’t benefit the people of Ewa Beach, I will have trouble justifying any defense. If people want it to go through, I will support it, but I think that Ewa Beach deserves better locations so people don’t have to drive a car to get to the station. You can’t reduce traffic if everyone has to drive to the station on the same route they took to the highway.
What else would you like to see as a legislator?
I am an efficiency expert, I’m an operations analyst, and it’s what I’ve been trained for. In my previous careers, I used advanced analytical techniques to make more efficient decisions. I think all bills should be required to have fiscal notes. Hawaii is the only state that doesn’t require fiscal accountability in bills. I can help to ensure that accountability.
I also want to push for a sunshine law, and I would love to have term limits applied to the Legislature. I would vote myself out of a job. I would like to see referendum power given to the people of Hawaii to veto or repeal laws passed by the Legislature and the governor.
The people should also have the ability to recall ineffective lawmakers, similar to the way constituents in California recalled Grey Davis. We should also have a ballot initiative, so Hawaii residents can have a petition system for ballot initiatives.
For more information, visit http://titoforsenate.com.