Economic reform is the way to improve Hawaii’s economy and job availability, said Marlene Hapai, a Republican candidate looking to secure the House District 3 seat.
Instituting a community growth model for the fair distribution of state funds throughout Hawaii, as well as commissioning marketing studies for the various communities within District 3, which includes upper Puna and east Ka‘u, will be the best ways to address problems facing the island’s economy, Hapai said.
“The economy and jobs are still some things we haven’t solved,” she said. “We’re getting better — little by little — but there are still a lot of people out there hurting economically.”
A community growth model would designate communities as either new, developing or mature. State funding would be based on those designations with fledgling communities receiving more funding than already established ones, she said.
“The need should really be based on where you’re at in the development of a community,” Hapai said. “We really need to take a good look at our state budget because … it doesn’t favor growth.”
A marketing study would help communities determine where their strengths are and potential economic sectors to pursue, she said.
“The study would look at the concerns and help to address what the communities will focus on, whether it is tourism or technology,” she said.
Though Republicans historically have had some difficulty getting legislation passed in a predominantly Democratic state Legislature, Hapai believes she will be successful.
“Good ideas move forward,” she said. “If you come up with a plan, and really flesh it out with how much it costs and what needs to be done, people will accept it and run with it, if it’s a good idea.”
Having spent 35 years working as a teacher, professor and administrator, Hapai said she also has ideas for improving the state’s public education system. Among those are changing how funding is allocated in schools to ensure classrooms first have the resources needed, as well as conducting a complete analysis of the Department of Education and its budget.
“There tends to be this funnel model in schools where the resources go in, but what actually is getting to the students and in the classrooms is not enough,” Hapai said. “With a pyramid model, the majority of the resources will go where they need to go to (the classrooms and teaching).”
She said federal funding can be pursued to offset school busing costs, but the state has to make the effort to secure it.
On the energy topic, Hapai said the best means to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy and transportation would be to pursue all forms of renewable energy sources available on the island, including wind, solar, and geothermal.
While not opposed to increasing geothermal production on the island, Hapai expressed reservations about the manner in which it is done. Funding should come via a public-private partnership, since the public will see some benefits.
“It’s something that we have the opportunity to benefit from, as long as it is done in a safe manner and people are aware,” she said. “If we do it right, it’s something beneficial that we can use.”
As for taxes, Hapai immediately said no to an increase. When doing the budget, it is fair to look at user fees to fund some things.
“We get half our revenue from taxes and we seem to be doing OK,” she said. “We have other money available at the federal level, we just need to find and get them and that way we wouldn’t have to raise taxes.”