Editor’s Note: In July 2012, Civil Beat sent six questions to each of the candidates registered to run in the Aug. 11 primary for Hawaii State House of Representatives District 20. All five responded, including Calvin Say. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full. Read the responses by Dwight Synan, Julia Allen, Keiko Bonk and Joseph Heaukalani to see how Say’s positions compare to those of his competitors. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Say’s response.

Preferred Candidate Name: Calvin Say

Senate/House District Number: House District 20

Date of Birth: 02/01/1952

Place of Birth/Hometown: Honolulu

Current Profession/Employer: Self-Employed Small Business Owner of Kotake Shokai (importer/wholesale). Also Secretary of Warabeya USA (food distributor).

Education/Alma Mater(s): Palolo Elementary, Jarrett Intermediate, St. Louis High, University of Hawaii at Manoa, BEd.

Political Party: Democrat

1. With the exception for Honolulu rail, the state has not raised the general excise tax in decades. Would you consider increasing the GET to help the state meet its budget demands?

I oppose a general excise tax rate increase. The general excise tax is regressive, and an increase would probably have greater detrimental impact on low-income families and fixed-income retirees. A general excise tax rate increase also would add to the cost of doing business, thereby jeopardizing the still fragile economic and job recovery. I believe we must maintain stability in Hawaii because of the potential negative impacts of the European debt crisis, China economic slowdown, Mid-East conflicts, and the U.S. “fiscal cliff”. A general excise tax rate increase would be contrary to the maintenance of stability.

I am willing, however, to consider extending the suspension of general excise tax exemptions that the Legislature passed two sessions ago. I do not believe special interests should benefit from exemptions that are unavailable to ordinary taxpayers. ↩ back to top

2. Lawmakers proposed relaxing environmental regulatory review to spur development and job growth in the 2012 session, and the issue is expected to resurface next year. Where do you stand?

From the perspective of the House of Representatives, the question is misleading. The House focused on authorizing the Governor to temporarily exempt from the environmental review process only state projects which would probably have minimal or no significant environmental effects. Contrary to the question, the House did not propose to exempt all “development”. The House also did not propose to exempt county projects, such as the rail system.

The House’s objective was to accelerate state projects that probably would not have significant environmental effects. Such projects would provide jobs, infuse money for circulation in Hawaii, and result in needed public facilities.

I believe that the issue should be considered again during the 2013 session, especially if the local economy experiences another slowdown.

For more information on the issue, I refer readers to my commentary, entitled “Why Hawaii Needs o Pass the Environmental Exemptions Bill”, in the Civil Beat edition of April 24, 2012. ↩ back to top

3. Gambling — are you for it or against it? If not, why not? If so, what type of gambling and with what kind of restrictions?

I oppose legalizing gambling in Hawaii. My reasons are based on the following beliefs:

(1) The social ills resulting from gambling are not worth the benefits.

(2) Legalized gambling is not guaranteed protection against an economic downturn.

(3) Government and society should not promote a philosophy that one can obtain riches an “easy way” that does not require education or hard work. ↩ back to top

4. The Sunshine Law is a hallmark of an open democracy accountable to its citizens. Yet, the Legislature exempts itself from this requirement. Do you support more transparency in government operations, or are there legitimate reasons to conduct some of the people’s business behind closed doors?

I support open government and transparency in the Legislature to the extent feasible. The House of Representatives has rules requiring the posting of public notice for hearings, holding of committee hearings open to the public, and open voting in committees and on the floor. The House also makes available to the public bills, committee reports, and other legislative documents. The House also allows all persons to testify before committees.

In my opinion, applying the Sunshine Law to the Legislature would not be feasible. Each regular session is limited to sixty working days. During the period, the Legislature must draft, study, hear, consider, and act on thousands of bills. Quick decisions are often necessary. The legislative process would be greatly hampered if compliance with the Sunshine Law is required. ↩ back to top

5. What is the best legislation — and worst legislation — that the Legislature has approved in recent years? Please explain.

The best legislation in recent years was the budget bills and revenue enhancement bills that were passed by the Legislature during the Great Recession years of 2009, 2010, and 2011. During those years, the Legislature took a responsible, balanced approach that combined expenditure reductions and revenue enhancements. It was noteworthy that the revenue enhancements did not include a general excise tax rate increase or income tax increase for low- and moderate-income families.

I am especially proud that the Legislature avoided the budgetary paralysis of the U.S. Congress. This was a difficult task because of the obstacles placed in the way by the naysayers, extremists, and special interests.

I have no response to the question on the worst legislation. All legislation has merit. ↩ back to top

6. What is an issue that you would champion at the Legislature — one that perhaps has not received much attention, or an issue that is important to your district?

The unfunded liability of the public employees’ health fund is a serious problem. This unfunded liability for the State government is huge — $11.5 billion. While the Legislature has made significant progress in addressing the unfunded liability of the public employees’ pension fund, there has been scant progress with respect to the health fund.

During the 2012 session, the House seriously considered the unfunded liability issue, and I believe we must do so again in 2013. If the unfunded liability problem is not resolved soon, the annual cost to the State and county governments for their retirees health insurance will increase significantly in the future. It will consume a greater proportion of the State and county budgets, leaving less funds available for other public services. The longer we wait, the solutions required will have to be more drastic. ↩ back to top