Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 4 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Aaron Ling Johanson, Republican candidate for state representative for District 31. Democrat Lei Sharsh, who did not respond to the questionnaires, is also running.

District 31 includes MoanaluaRed HillFoster VillageAieaFort ShafterMoanalua GardensAliamanu and Lower Pearlridge.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the General Election Ballot.

Name:  Aaron Ling Johanson

Office: State representative, Distrsict 31

Party: Republican

Profession: Legislator

Education: Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, Yale University; diploma, summa cum laude, Moanalua High School

Age: 34

Community organizations: Director, Moanalua Gardens Community Association; director, Moanalua Lions Club; member, Aiea Community Association; member, Friends of Aiea Library; former youth leader, Calvary Church of the Pacific in Aiea

Aaron Ling Johanson, House District 31 candidate, 2014

Aaron Ling Johanson

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature?

I am a son of our community, a Moanalua-Yale graduate, and a current state representative with management experience in the federal and state government, including as a division director in the White House and as deputy chief of staff of the U.S. Mint. I contribute an implementation-oriented perspective to the public policy debate at the Capitol. I continue to serve in civic groups and work in a common-sense, bipartisan manner to get things done for our community.

2. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers?

The Legislature has made some progress in addressing the state’s unfunded liabilities. However, Hawaii continues to have one of the highest rates of unfunded liabilities in the country and we must do significantly more to meet our pension and health obligations. This includes dedicating more of the budget to reducing the unfunded liabilities and ensuring that benefits for future public workers are financially sustainable. The Legislature should not raid the funds that help pay for these obligations and debts.

3. Local officials and advocates have worked to address homelessness for years, yet the crisis is growing. What proposals do you have for this complicated issue?

We need to continue to support Housing First as the program is an effective, coordinated effort to combat the multi-faceted problem of homelessness. Hawaii must also seriously act to lower the cost of living for so many of our people who are barely able to afford basic necessities in Hawaii such a food and shelter.

4. Where do you stand on labeling genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation? Are these public safety issues, or are the dangers exaggerated?

I support greater transparency in general. Labeling genetically engineered foods and the disclosure of pertinent health, environmental, and consumer information must be done in a commo- sense and practical way. I prefer the labeling of GMO products be taken up at the federal level so that there can be a coordinated, national effort by producers, retailers, and consumers to execute labeling in the most cohesive way.

5. Hawaii’s cost of living is the highest in the country by many indicators. What can really be done to make things like housing, food and transportation less expensive?

Hawaii’s cost of living is too high; we’re allowing ourselves to be priced out of paradise. I advocate broad-based income tax relief for seniors, low-income individuals, the middle class, and small businesses. The 2013 Legislature almost passed broad-based income tax reductions for everyone – a policy I helped craft. We must boldly enact real tax relief to make housing, food, and transportation more affordable. Additionally, Hawaii should exempt food and medicine – basic necessities – from the general excise tax. Many other states exempt food and medicine from their equivalent tax because these items are basic necessities. Such an exemption will immediately bring the price of food and medicine down.

6. Would you support using liquified natural gas as part of the state’s energy sources? And how can we improve the electrical distribution system so more renewable energy can be utilized to bring costs down?

Hawaii has one of the highest renewable energy potentials in the nation. We need to do more to transition to a clean energy economy, with abundant small business opportunities and knowledge-based, higher-paying jobs that will accompany a growing renewable energy sector. HECO needs to modernize the electrical grid and upgrade outdated infrastructure that limits the input of clean energy into the grid through individual PV systems as well as increase battery storage capacity.

7. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Yet many citizens are unable to afford the costs that state and local government agencies impose. Would you support eliminating search and redaction charges and making records free to the public except for basic copying costs?

Yes. Our government derives its authority and its powers from the people. Accordingly, it is the people’s right to know what their government is doing on their behalf. Fostering greater transparency in government is in keeping with a respect for and an acknowledgment of the peoples’ inherent role over their government.

8. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better?

I am a proud product of all of the Moanalua Schools and Yale University. The Moanalua schools provided an amazing academic preparation for college and beyond. I would like to see all public school students afforded the same opportunities in any of Hawaii’s public schools. In order to better accomplish that goal, I advocate auditing the Department of Education, allocating more funding directly to the classroom and school level, increasing college prep and vocational/technical courses, and supporting greater professional development opportunities for our educators and administrators.

9. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?

I want responsible economic development and believe that beneficial public infrastructure projects and private sector developments are critical to improving our quality of life and spurring economic growth. I see the economic activity that can accompany development first-hand in my district that includes Pearlridge Shopping Center (Hawaii’s second-largest shopping complex), the light industrial area of Mapunapuna, two freeways, military installations, and the airport. Economic growth and good environmental stewardship do not have to be mutually exclusive ends. Our state’s land use policy must balance growing our economy through beneficial development, environmental and resource constraints, health impacts, and community concerns.

10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

The state’s procurement system and its use of taxpayer monies for public works projects need greater attention. Many people in the community can see the problems of an ineffective procurement system on display in our schools and our neighborhoods. Most communities have a new school building, a new road, or some major capital improvement project that has been significantly delayed significantly, is over budget, and ultimately turned out with unintended results. We must continue to look at reforming the procurement system and the administration of the state’s contracts to ensure best quality results for the taxpayer in our public works projects.