Ed Case wants to see more tourists come into Hawaii.
Opening up the state, and the country, especially to Chinese visitors, will require a multipronged approach, he said.
“It needs to be easy to obtain a visa or visa waiver,” Case said, noting that many countries issue visas to arriving visitors at the port of entry. “Two, it needs to be easy to get a flight. Third, it needs to be easy to go through immigration and customs.”
To get more flights, the United States and other countries need to execute more open-sky agreements, as well as maintain infrastructure, such as Kona International Airport at Keahole, which has thus far been able to retain its international designation despite the loss of routine, direct flights from Japan.
The United States needs to increase staffing at consulates to expedite the visa application process, Case said.
He supports changes to the Jones Act, which requires ships sailing between domestic U.S. ports be American-owned, flagged and crewed.
“The Jones Act disproportionately harms island economies like Hawaii,” Case said. “It drives prices up and limits the market” for the state’s products.
Ranchers must charter an airplane to move cattle from Hawaii to the mainland, because no American ships are available to transport the animals.
“There are ships out there,” he said. “This law prevents them from doing it.”
Social Security is “on an unsustainable fiscal path” right now, he said.
He said he supports a blended approach to alleviate the program’s financial woes. First, the changes should not affect people already collecting checks, nor should it impact people nearing retirement age. Secondly, the salary cap on how much income can be used to determined how much Social Security tax a worker pays should be raised from $110,000 to $200,000.
Proposals to eliminate the salary cap are “pandering,” he said, adding that reviews of Social Security contributions support leaving a cap at $200,000 of income.
He would also support phasing in a one- to two-year increase in the retirement age.
He would support cuts to the Farm Bill, calling the program “corporate welfare” for large farmers growing program crops.
During his earlier tenure in Congress as a representative, Case said he successfully introduced legislation that expanded Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, as well as a national wildlife refuge on Kauai. Another notable bill, which did not pass Congress but which President George W. Bush adopted, created the Northwest Hawaiian Islands national monument. His measure to extend veterans benefits to Filipino World War II veterans was passed after he left Congress.
A U.S. senator is able to intervene on constituents’ behalf, and he said he would be willing to step in to help with the ongoing negotiations for the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project, which is federally funded and stuck in Section 106 discussions.
Issues facing West Hawaii are much the same as issues facing the rest of the state and the country, he said.
“It is about the economy and jobs,” he said.
He has called the Democratic Primary for the open U.S. Senate seat a referendum on Hawaii politics. Hawaii needs a senator who can jump in and begin writing legislation immediately, not someone who will wait for several years to gain seniority before taking action.
Case said he is willing to cross party lines to take actions that he said are in the state’s and country’s best interests.