Sam Slom, the Senate’s lone Republican, and minority staff have unveiled their priorities for the 2015 legislative session, which convenes Jan. 21.

Transparency and accountability will be the overarching theme. Under that umbrella are five areas of focus: the state economy, education, the Hawaii Health Connector, oversight of the Public Utilities Commission in light of the pending merger between Hawaiian Electric Industries and NextEra Energy, and positively affecting the cost of living for residents, according to an announcement Wednesday.

Sen. Sam Slom and staff

Sen. Sam Slom, accompanied by Senate Minority staff, speaks during a press conference in his office Wednesday.

Senate Minority

“With the planned merger of Hawaiian Electric Industries and NextEra Energy before year end, the Public Utilities Commission will be doubly challenged to ensure prompt and thorough oversight as well as public dialog to ensure that this transaction truly benefits the citizens of Hawaii,” legislative aide Kathy Higa said.

She also questioned whether the state should give more money to the Connector, Hawaii’s insurance exchange that was created under the Affordable Care Act, when it’s not expected to become self-sustainable for another seven years — and that depends on quadrupling enrollments.

“Presented with an estimated $28 million request for funding, we have to ask whether there are more effective ways to reach Medicaid/CHIP beneficiaries and help individuals and small businesses determine eligibility for tax credits,” Higa said.

Paul Harleman, budget director, said the Senate minority will introduce a bill to eliminate the corporate income tax to boost Hawaii’s business climate.

“In Hawaii, corporate income taxes account for less than 2 percent of state general fund tax revenues and are not a significant source of income for the state, yet they heavily burden corporations seeking to do business in our state,” he said.

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