Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 3 General Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Austin Maglinti, Republican candidate for state House District 39, which includes Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo and West Loch. The other candidate is Democrat Ty Cullen.
1. Hawaii has been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps the biggest impact is to the economy and the tourism industry, which has been Hawaii’s biggest economic driver. Do you think state leaders have handled the response to the virus effectively, including the approach to testing and health care as well as the stay-at-home orders that have caused serious economic harm? What would you have done differently?
The simple fact is Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell have been late on putting proclamations and orders in place. I believe the effort of protecting the people has been a priority on all levels. Our elected officials could have been more proactive earlier in the pandemic season to protectively allow tourism to continue.
Businesses have closed and jobs have been cut due to this pandemic and the facts prove COVID-19 is no deadlier then our yearly flu.
2. The state budget is facing record shortfalls. How would you balance the budget? What would you cut? What would you protect?
As soon-to-be elected officials we need to look at the state spending and really prioritize what’s essential and non-essential spending. Just like how current elected officials did with our people’s careers we should do the same with tax spending and slowly reintroduce the spending when the right time comes.
3. What do you think should be done to diversify the economy? What would you do as an elected official to make that happen?
I have said this time and time again. Hawaii needs to and can become self-sustainable. We need to trust our local farmers and ranchers and reintroduce programs to create a market for the local produce, meats, and dairy. If we have supported these professions our economy should definitely look better by keeping the market to our local vendors. Money spent in Hawaii stays in Hawaii.
4. 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? Would you support reductions in benefits including in pension contributions for public employees in light of virus-related budget shortfalls?
Our government and our daily lives rely a whole lot on public workers. From our refuse collection teams to our teachers. I do not support taking money from the people at any cost. If our government should lower the contributions to our state workers a tax break is something that should be looked at. The simple fact is we need to build our economy and we need to build it fast.
5. The state’s virus response effort has exposed deep rifts within the top levels of government, including between the Legislature and Gov. David Ige. He will be in office two more years, so what would you do to ensure public confidence in Hawaii’s government officials and top executives?
If elected I will pursue transparency in our government. The people are getting half the story especially during a time like this. Thanks to the efforts of Lt. Gov. Josh Green we have seen more communication from his office then any other elected official. You may say it’s his responsibility to report but let us not forget who we work for and who we truly report to. And that’s the people of Hawaii.
6. Recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police are igniting protests and calls for reform across the country, primarily aimed at preventing discrimination against people of color. How important do you see this as an issue for Hawaii? What should be done to improve policing and police accountability throughout the state? Do you support police reform efforts such as mandatory disclosure of misconduct records by police agencies and adequate funding for law enforcement oversight boards that have been established in recent years?
In Hawaii we don’t see many or any cases of police brutality. Now there is a difference between corruption and citizen brutality and in Hawaii we just don’t see it. As a state we have been moving in a good direction in being accountable to our police force and by creating a commission we now can have accountability on the ones who hold our police accountable. I truly believe police need to be the counselors in our community. Many citizens look up to the police for help; we need to also start looking to them for advice.
7. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I support any effort to allow the community to be active in the legislative process. However allowing the community to bypass the Legislature is dangerous. But bringing my point back to accountability, elected officials are elected for a reason. Some forget that and tend to push a personal agenda.
We need to remember who we work for and as I’ve said before that factor is the people. We were elected to be a voice for our people and be a vote for those who elected us into office. Their opinion is more important than our own. And that’s why the legislative process allows testimonies and lobbying.
8. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Gov. David Ige suspended the open government laws under an emergency order during the pandemic. Do you agree or disagree with his action? What would you do to ensure the public has access to open meetings and public records in a timely fashion?
I totally disagree. During this time of uncertainty our government should be the most transparent. It is crucial that the trust between our government and constituents remain intact. Once that goes down the drain, we don’t know the can of worms we might open.
9. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs? How big of a priority is this for you?
Caring for our marine life is a priority, especially for Oahu as it’s a scarce resource. However, many groups nationally recognized are trying their best to give their opinions and brand into Hawaii for a long time and most accusations and/or claims are false. Hawaii needs to stop taking advice from parties who have no knowledge of Hawaii or our natural resources.
10. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Like many other districts, House District 39’s most crucial issues are economic shutdown, cost of living, education and food insecurity.
To help my district recover from COVID, we should lower the state GE tax on all costs of living. To give our citizens this small tax break could very well keep our economy going.
I also believe we need to move away from the idea of “if it works for one it works for all” in education. We need to start offering career readiness courses and trade courses, to decentralize the Department of Education so each complex can allocate and prioritizing funding. This also alleviates stress from the state commission and increases value in our complex area superintendents.
We should also remove and lower regulations that impede citizens from making businesses in Hawaii and small business from doing business in Hawaii.
11. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
COVID-19 has shown the public and our officials where we need to fix and move from a geriatric system. We need to upgrade our infrastructure and our technology in the unemployment sector. And create relief funds for situations like this pandemic. And my platform is my big idea. All that I want to change for the betterment of the people is my big idea to better our state.