Maui resident Antonio Gimbernat sees Hawaii’s water quality as one of the top issues facing the state.
Gimbernat, 43, a home remodeler, politician and former truck driver, is running for the Democratic nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat.
“If we don’t have a clean ocean, the tourists aren’t going to want to come,” he said.
When wastewater facilities have a spill, those companies should be held accountable for the damage, he said, just like BP is being held accountable for the Gulf of Mexico spill.
He said he had some concerns about the visa waiver program to bring more tourists, particularly from China, to Hawaii.
“With some of the trade problems we’re having with China, let’s leave the restrictions in place,” he said. “There are other routes we can take.”
Legalizing gambling would be the best way to increase tourism, he said.
“If they were to legalize gambling in the hotel zones, Kaanapali, Waikiki, this would give incentive for tourists to come,” Gimbernat said. “We’re losing tourists to Las Vegas and Atlantic City.”
Gambling would bring more lodging revenues, as well as tax revenues, which he said could be used to construct needed infrastructure around the state.
He said he sees room in the defense budget for cuts. Technological advancements should be able to reduce some of the Defense Department’s expenditures.
Money being spent on defense might be better spent on addressing domestic problems, such as homelessness. He also said the U.S. should cut back on foreign aid.
He cited President Barack Obama’s $100 million in emergency aid to Haiti following that country’s devastating earthquake several years ago as an example of such aid.
The week after that aid was given, Gimbernat came across a homeless man sleeping outside on Maui and wondered how much good $100 million could have done here.
He said he didn’t support continuing to send American troops abroad.
“I don’t think America has to be the world police,” Gimbernat said. “We should let the United Nations take that job.”
If the U.N. asks for American assistance in the form of troops, then the United States should consider helping, he added.
The looming problems with funding Social Security might be best addressed by looking at immigration, Gimbernat said.
“We have a lot of immigrants coming in,” he said. “Somehow they claim it. American’s got to watch how many people they let in.”
He said he’s concerned about people who “came yesterday and want full benefits today.”
That’s not fair for people who have paid into the system for decades, he added.
Gimbernat said he wasn’t certain doctors needed higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. Low reimbursements from insurance providers is one of the top reasons doctors cite when they close their practices here. Gimbernat said he wasn’t sure doctors were being compensated too little.
“Wealth is not about money, wealth is about having your health, having a plate of food in front of you,” he said.
He said he would look into an exemption for Hawaii from the Jones Act, which requires ships moving between U.S. ports be American-owned, -flagged and -crewed, although he said he sees the need for the law.
“The Jones Act was set up for the safety of Americans, so the inspections are thorough,” he said.
Gimbernat said he’s “95 percent a Democrat,” but would consider crossing party lines.
“I want to do what’s pono,” he said. “If what was pono would happen to cross party lines, I would.”