Inouye focus: Pensions and unfunded liabilities


Former Hawaii County mayor and state senator Lorraine Inouye is hoping residents of Hawaii Island’s newest state Senate district will send her back to the Legislature to address what she sees as a major issue facing the state.

“My concern has to do with unfunded liability to the pension fund and retiree health benefits,” Inouye said. “That’s a big problem. We need to review that.”

Job creation is also high on her list. Inouye proposed creating jobs through public-private partnerships.

She said she’s not looking to increase tax incentives, nor increase any state user fees. The recent increase in vehicle registration fees was “not the right thing to do,” she said.

The Legislature should stay out of collective bargaining and similar issues with regards to state schools. But legislators do have a role to play in improving schools, Inouye added.

Providing “funding for their needs is what we, as legislators, can do,” she said.

Inouye called on her previous legislative experiences to show what she can do for District 4 residents. On the issue of reducing fossil fuel use in the state, she noted she was previously the chairwoman of the Senate’s Energy and Environment Committee, where she served as one of the lead negotiators creating the state’s first net energy metering program.

“I was also involved as one of the negotiators to set policy with regards to the energy portfolio,” she said.

She was in the Senate that worked to get geothermal going again “after it blew up in my face,” she said, referring to the 1991 Puna Geothermal Venture blowout.

Any geothermal expansion should be funded by the private sector, she said.

“There have been incentives going,” she said, adding the state has less revenue available to fund such expansion. “The private sector should start picking up the tab.”

She said she plans to analyze the entire state budget, line-by-line, to determine the impact of existing tax credits.

One bill Inouye intends to introduce, if elected, would have an impact on the state’s next reapportionment process in another decade.

“I’m going to introduce a measure to assess the makeup of the reapportionment commission,” Inouye said. She wants to require a representative from each island.

Last year’s reapportionment commission had only one member from a neighbor island, from Maui.

The commission’s initial plan was so contentious it ended up in the state’s high court, with Hawaii Supreme Court ordering the commission to re-do its work.

The re-do gave Hawaii Island a fourth Senate district, the seat Inouye is seeking.