Economic diversity, education top Leslie’s legislative priorities


Creating incentives aimed at fostering a more diverse economy in Kona will be the first project Democrat Bucky Leslie said he would tackle if elected to the state House District 6 seat.

Such incentives like making money available through loans to help businesses expand will provide means for a more diverse economy capable of employing more people, Leslie said. Incentives in the agricultural area, especially for coffee farmers, are needed, he added.

“To diversify, we need to provide incentives to our people here so they can stay,” he said. “We need to develop a more diverse economy.”

Leslie, who lives in Holualoa, will face Fred Housel, Kalei Akaka and Nicole Lowen in his quest for the Democrat ticket in the Aug. 11 primary election. The state House of Representatives District 6 seat represents constituents of Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Honokohau, Kealakehe, Kalaoa, and North Kona to Kaupulehu.

Improving Hawaii’s public education system is something the state Legislature has never supported the Department of Education in doing, Leslie said.

“They’ve never supported education,” he said, noting it seems constant cuts are being made within the department. “Education is one of the biggest cores of what we need here.”

To improve public schools, Leslie called for better teachers, never again instituting furloughs and increasing state funding to public schools to “keep our kids in school and being educated.”

“We don’t need to cut back, we need more funding,” he said, noting possible sources of funding to apply to schooling could be found by removing some of the state’s bureaucracy. “We need to keep our kids educated — we’ve got one of the worst rates of learning. Our learning is really bad and we need to force that issue.”

As for busing kids to school, he said he was not sure on how to best ensure funding is adequate for continued operation. He said he would like buses to always be available for students so none are left waiting.

As for reducing Hawaii’s reliance on fossil fuels, Leslie said he had not had a chance to study the issue and therefore could not answer the question.

On the topic of geothermal energy production, Leslie said more studies need to be conducted before any increase in production is considered. Funding increased geothermal energy production should fall upon the private company.

He would also like to ensure any other private companies that come in to produce geothermal energy are required to provide some funding, or royalties, to the community such as is the case at Puna Geothermal Venture.

“If we’re going to do it, we need to make sure some of the moneys are given back to the community,” he said. “Whether it’s to the community, schools or whatever — we need to make sure they (the private geothermal developers) give back to the resource.”

In the realm of potential tax increases, Leslie said he would have to consider any increase on a case-by-case basis. He did add that rather than looking to increase taxes on all, the state can look to other areas such as airline passengers for tax revenue.

“We tax our own people on everything, and it’s not fair,” he explained. “We should tax different things, too.”

Increasing user fees is another area that has to be considered on a case-by-case basis, Leslie said. He specified any user fee collected has to cover costs associated with that service being rendered or offered.