COVID-19 will be gone in 2022, and hopefully the same will be true of the DINO’s (Democrats In Name Only).
We cannot continue electing faux Democrats to the Hawaii Legislature.
At present, a majority of those in positions of legislative leadership are basically regressive corporatists, masquerading as centrists, who were elected as Democrats because a “D” next to their name is necessary to win in Hawaii.
There is no other explanation for why a Legislature supposedly dominated by Democrats cannot or will not increase the minimum wage, ban candy-flavored tobacco products, or legalize cannabis — or even regulate the predatory practices of “pay-day lenders.”
And when the help is needed now more than ever before, why no 2020 special session to deal with the mask mandate, the unemployment debacle, and increased support for local business?
We need to elect Democrats in 2022 who actually believe in the stuff Democrats are supposed to believe in. There are solid, value-based legislators in both the House and the Senate now, but they lack the majority support necessary to move forward an agenda of substance.
Think about what is possible:
1. A $17 minimum wage via consistent, incremental increases.
2. Robust tax credits, grants, and low-interest loans for small locally owned businesses – paid for by increased taxes/fees on big business.
3. Eliminating the state income tax on unemployment benefits. Increasing the state income tax on the highest earners.
4. Eliminating the General Excise Tax (GET) on locally grown food and affordable residential and commercial leases.
5. Permanent affordable housing financed via anti-speculation tax on real estate sales.
6. Ban candy-flavored tobacco products that appeal to children.
7. Support/subsidize regenerative agriculture and local food production.
8. Ban all gifts to all elected officials by lobbyists.
9. Expand support of publicly-funded elections.
10. Legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for responsible adult use. Retain “the right to grow” small amounts for personal use.
11. Eliminate the “cash bail” system. Ban for-profit prisons.
12. Implement a “Medicare/Medicaid for all” program at the state level.
13. Fund “Housing First” and increased mental health services for the Houseless.
14. Cap hotel development, TVR’sr and rental cars – tax appropriately.
15. Remove corporate control of water/stream diversions.
16. Increase pay for public school teachers reflecting the high cost of living in Hawaii and recognizes the vital importance we place on teachers and education.
17. Require paid sick and family leave policies.
18. Finally…regulate pay-day lenders.
HOW TO PAY for all of this? The short answer is to increase taxes and fees on those who are not paying their fair share. As the time of COVID passes and the economy improves, the taxes and fees applied to big business, foreign corporations, and the very wealthy must with due deliberation and thoughtfulness be increased.
Hawaii has great wealth intrinsically embedded within our geographical location, our indigenous culture, and our incredible natural environment. The problem is not the lack of wealth but rather the foreign corporations that do not pay their fair share and just continuously extract and export that wealth back to wherever their shareholders happen to live.
To those concerned about raising taxes on the Hyatts, Hiltons, and Marriotts of the world – rest assured they will not flee our islands. Likewise, the Walmarts, Targets, and other big-box stores will not roll up their sidewalks and call it a day because we increase their taxes.
Think about it. When was the last time a hotel, a fast-food chain, a big box store or a billionaire with a beach home on Kauai – left Hawaii because our taxes are too high?
For too long, too many of us have chosen to simply look the other way and “make nice” as the corporatists controlling our legislature called all the shots.
It’s time that changes.
Gary Hooser – Former Vice-Chair Democratic Party of Hawaii, Hawaii State Senator 2002 – 2010, Senate Majority Leader 2006 – 2010