Navy retiree Arturo “Art” Reyes sees the economy, nationally and in the state, as the biggest issue for voters in the upcoming election for U.S. Senate.
The 60-year-old Oahu resident is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the seat, which long-time Sen. Daniel Akaka is retiring from this year.
Reyes said a Senator can do “a lot” once elected to help create jobs, particularly in the construction and housing industries. That, in turn, can help the economy begin to rebound.
Reyes said he’s hearing about some other issues from Big Island residents, particularly about access to senior housing and nursing homes.
Native Hawaiian issues, and concerns from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities also come up, he said.
He’s open to a visa waiver for Chinese visitors, an issue that comes up frequently in the campaign race.
“Not only for China, but for the whole world,” he said. “We should not restrict people from travel.”
Many European countries and Japan already have such visa waivers with the U.S., he added. If the U.S. can have that program for those countries, why not for everyone else, he asked.
The visa waiver shouldn’t just be available for tourists, he said.
The United States has the best education available worldwide, and more visas should be available for students.
“That would really create a mega stimulus for the economy,” he said.
He said he sees differences in how the United States looks at European countries and Asian ones. He noted the Statue of Liberty points to Europe, with no recognition of Asian or African immigrants. He’d like to get such a statue either in Hawaii or San Francisco.
Reyes doesn’t see a need to cut any federal program budgets.
“We are the best nation in the whole world,” he said. “Why would we cut anything? Downsizing is not good.”
The means to collect revenue are already in place, he said, in the form of taxes.
“You don’t have to raise taxes,” Reyes said. “Just get everybody to pay taxes, and we don’t have to cut anything.”
Asked what he would do to increase reimbursements for Hawaii’s physicians, who frequently cite low reimbursements as a reason for closing practices here, Reyes offered criticism of the existing physician licensing process. Supply and demand should determine what doctors get paid, he said.
And foreign doctors should be able to more easily become licensed in the United States.
“There are a lot of doctors from abroad trying to get here,” he said. “If you let them in we’ll have an abundant supply.”
Those doctors will provide “accessibility, affordability and care will be cheap,” he said. “Just let the hospitals hire who they need to hire.”
He supports abolishing the Jones Act, enacted in the 1920s, which requires any ship traveling between U.S. ports to be American-owned, -flagged and -crewed.
He said he would vote across party lines, following John F. Kennedy’s lead when Kennedy noted his allegiance would shift from the Democratic party while campaigning to the entire public once elected.
“I will vote my conscience, what’s best for the people,” Reyes said.