Hawaii’s main issue isn’t different from the main problem facing the rest of the country, Democratic U.S. House candidate Tulsi Gabbard says.
“The No. 1 thing I keep hearing is the need for good jobs and an improved economy,” Gabbard said.
People want good, quality jobs, not just any job, she added.
“We have a good opportunity here to maximize the potential within the renewable energy sector,” she said. “Hawaii is uniquely positioned to be on the cutting edge and provide an example” to the rest of the country.
“Maui has wind. Kauai has good sunlight for solar. And on Hawaii Island, people continue to discuss geothermal energy,” she said.
“People are engaged” in the conversation about geothermal, Gabbard said. “That’s always a good thing. That can provide some great opportunities to get people engaged in the future of their community.”
Government at the federal, state and county level will need to partner to help those projects move forward, she added.
The technology industry could also come to and expand in Hawaii, again growing via public-private partnerships, Gabbard said.
Gabbard said she is a proponent of getting Hawaii’s doctors an increase in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, similar to the one the late Sen. Ted Stevens got for Alaska’s doctors.
Hawaii, like Alaska, is primarily rural and has a high cost of living and a high cost to do business, she said, so such an increase would be appropriate.
“That’s really a no-brainer,” she said.
Protecting Social Security and Medicare is vitally important, Gabbard said. For her, it is a cultural issue.
“It’s about protecting our kupuna,” she said. “They worked hard so we could have opportunities.”
Improving the economy, and eliminating special interest tax breaks, will provide enough revenue to boost funding to those programs, Gabbard said.
A veteran who strongly supports ending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, Gabbard said she sees room for Defense Department savings as well, just by bringing troops home.
That would save $2.5 billion weekly, she said. Federal officials also need to get a “tighter hold” on defense contracting, she said.
Defense savings would free up the country to invest in “creating jobs at home,” she said.
Small businessess didn’t get bailouts, and those small businesses are providing and creating local jobs, she said.
She would like to see a focus on helping them, possibly through tax incentives for businesses hiring people who have been unemployed for a minimum length of time.
She would like to end federal subsidies for corporations and banks, and continue to look to eliminate waste and fraud in government spending. She pointed to a recent revelation by the federal General Services Administration that employees had defrauded the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It’s mind-boggling the special treatment these people have,” Gabbard said.
She also plans to look for redundancy in government programs and spending.
Gabbard has previously served in the state Legislature and the Honolulu City Council. She noted her role in getting infrastructure, including school and street improvements, for her district, one of the fastest-growing in the state, she said.
If elected, Gabbard said she will vote across party lines.
“It’s important, no matter the issue, to really look at the problem and not be blinded by the partisan gridlock in Congress today,” she said.