Lingle calls for tax reform, more business support


Former Gov. Linda Lingle has her sights set on reforms if she prevails in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Lingle, a two-term governor who is seeking the Republican nomination in the primary, said she’d like to see the tax code changed, less red tape impeding business progress and the implementation of a “loser pay” clause for lawsuits.

The United States is the only industrialized nation without a requirement that a person filing a lawsuit be required to cover court costs if the lawsuit fails,

Lingle said. The provision is a protection against frivolous lawsuits, particularly those filed by organizations that oppose a development project, for example, she said.

“They don’t care if they lose,” Lingle said. The typical goal of such a lawsuit, she said, is not necessarily to win, but to delay progress long enough that investors give up and the project fails.

A federally designated, critical habitat area for Hawaiian monk seals, that extends both mauka and makai of the shoreline, is one federal regulation that creates red tape and hurts business, Lingle said. That habitat “affects our ability to have harbor improvements,” Lingle said. “I’ve come out against this.”

She said the assessment of the critical habitat proposal claimed any financial impacts the rules would have on business could not be determined.

She said federal officials do, or should, know what those impacts are, and she would like to see objective, third-party analysis of such proposals in the future to explain the impact on jobs and businesses before such regulations go into effect.

No. 1 on her list of reforms, she said, is to simplify the tax code. It’s too long for small-business owners to understand themselves, and small-business owners cannot afford to hire tax code experts to help them find loopholes and exemptions like large corporations can.

“Taxes are too complicated, too hard on businesses,” Lingle said.

She would like to lower the corporate tax rate from 39 percent to the low 20s.

Many corporations aren’t paying the full amount anyway, because they get some kind of tax exemption or preferential treatment, she said.

“Drop that rate and then have people pay that amount,” she said, adding she doesn’t blame businesses for taking advantage of the exemptions that exist.

Lingle said she supports keeping the mortgage interest deduction, which helps people buy homes, in turn supporting the construction industry, and the charitable donation deduction. Communities depend on those charitable deductions, she said.

The former governor does not support a repeal of the Jones Act, passed in 1920, which requires ships traveling between domestic ports to be American-owned, built and flagged.

“It really is tied to national security and maintaining a strong ship-building industry,” Lingle said, adding that if the act were to be repealed, the country’s ship-building industry would likely shrink.

Without such an industry, U.S. Navy vessels would likely be built in foreign countries, she said, which is a cause for concern.

It is also unclear, she added, whether foreign ships would even stop in Hawaii.

“There are a lot of questions about it,” she said.

She would prefer to see other changes to lower shipping costs, such as an exemption from federal maritime shipping taxes.