Editor’s Note: In September 2012, Civil Beat sent six questions to each of the candidates running in the Nov. 6 general election for Hawaii Legislature. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and the candidate’s response. We’ve also put together a full list of who’s on the general election ballot.

Preferred Candidate Name: Aaron Ling Johanson

Party Affiliation: Republican

Senate/House District Number: House District 31

Date of Birth: 01/30/80

Place of Birth/Hometown: Born in Montana; Moved to Hawaii at age 6 in 1986

Current Profession/Employer: State Representative, Hawaii State Legislature

Education/Alma Mater(s): Yale University, Bachelor of Arts; Moanalua High School, Diploma

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?

Hawaii’s general excise tax (GET) impacts everyone: Hawaii’s families, individuals, and visitors. I do not support increasing the GET because I believe that such an increase would have a widespread and negative impact on all of Hawaii’s people at a time when our cost of living continues to remain high and economic uncertainty abounds. It is important to ensure that our state’s budget is in order and that we meet our state’s needs; there are other ways to accomplish that end without raising the GET. ↩ 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?

I want responsible economic development; beneficial public infrastructure projects are critical to improving our quality of life and spurring economic growth. Streamlining of the procurement and permitting processes can afford some benefit if done carefully in a way that does not ultimately compromise public input, transparency, best value for the taxpayer, and appropriate environmental and land use safeguards. ↩ 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?

Hawaii needs to grow and diversify its economy to better serve the public. However, I do not believe that legalized gambling will accomplish that goal. The associated negative societal impacts of legalized gambling (such as crime) and the accompanying costs will likely outweigh any of the potential revenue generated. It would be counterproductive for the State of Hawaii to legalize gambling. ↩ 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 do support greater transparency at the Legislature and in government operations. Quality deliberation and greater transparency are not mutually-exclusive ends. The public is entitled to know what is going on in government. Ensuring greater transparency makes our government more accessible and more accountable to the public. In doing so, the public is ultimately better served. ↩ back to top

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

One of the best pieces of enacted legislation increased educational opportunity for veterans within the UH system by establishing a credit equivalency for professional expertise. By making this simple, common-sense change, the State of Hawaii will enable many of the service members leaving active duty to transition more effectively into Hawaii’s higher education setting and increase the likelihood of retaining these skilled individuals who can infuse their skills and knowledge into our workforce and economy.

The worst recent legislation raised the vehicle registration fee and the vehicle weight tax exponentially. These kinds of dramatic tax and fee increases continue to add to Hawaii’s already high cost of living.
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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?

Hawaii’s high cost of living is reducing the quality of life for our seniors, families, and individuals. To decrease the cost of living, I support reducing taxes on basic necessities, such as food and medicine. As a Representative, I weigh tax and fee increases carefully and will continue to oppose broad-based increases that exacerbate our high cost of living, such as pension taxes. ↩ back to top