Pro-Business Legislators

Some Republicans and Democrats stand out as best, but when we tried to ID the worst, business leaders were reluctant to name names

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Though some business leaders are happy there was no GET increase or other new mandates that would raise the cost of business, one lobbyist was sarcastic. Business should be thankful to the Legislature for not raising taxes, he wonders, for not adding insult to injury?

For a while during the 2010 session, a broad tax increase seemed possible. Key lawmakers called in representatives of major business groups – banking, insurance and others – and presented them with a choice: Either the Legislature would increase the GET or raise targeted taxes that many businesses pay in lieu of the GET. One observer calls it little more than a threat.

“The recent actions (by several legislators) to bring in literally hundreds of business people and threaten them one at a time with business-killing tax increases and new taxes was bizarre,” the observer says. “It reminded me of the scenes from ‘The Departed’ when Jack Nicholson was going through the inventory of his own gang members in order to find the rat.”



Many national interest groups, from business lobbies to environmental organizations, issue “scorecards” that grade members of Congress on how their votes align with each group’s interests. Most local groups avoid this approach, but there is a scorecard from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which generally advocates for less government.

Its 2010 scorecard, “The Freedom Test,” is based on six issues: taxes, business climate, spending, individual liberty, special funds, and scope of government.

In the House, the top six scorers were all six Republicans in the chamber, with the top three being Lynn Finnegan (score of 56 percent), Barbara Marumoto and Kimberly Pine (both with 54 percent). The highest-scoring Democrat was Tom Brower (27 percent). Five Democrats shared the lowest score of 2 percent: Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Marilyn Lee, Sylvia Luke, Hermina Morita and Mark Nakashima.

In the Senate, top scorers were Republicans Sam Slom (98 percent) and Fred Hemmings (78 percent), and Democrat David Ige (24 percent). Ten Democrats shared the low score of 5 percent, including 2010 Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.

The full report is at


Another National Slam at Hawaii’s Business Climate

     Photo: Wes Funai

Several national rankings by major U.S. media, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazines, have criticized Hawaii’s business climate. The latest comes from cable network CNBC, which in July listed Hawaii as third worst in its survey of America’s top states for business in 2010. “But at least it’s Hawaii,” the survey wryly notes.

Ranked below Hawaii were Nevada and West Virginia. The top state was Texas, followed by Virginia and Colorado. The complete report is available at


This story was based on interviews and an e-mail questionnaire with business lobbyists, business groups and other business advocates. The questions were:

1. Over the past few years, what in your opinion has been the most significant action (or actions) taken by the Legislature to improve the business climate in Hawaii?

2. During the same time frame, what in your opinion has been the most significant action taken by the Legislature that harms or hinders the business climate in Hawaii?

3. Outside commentators have often remarked that Hawaii has a remarkably “unfriendly” climate for business. Is this reputation warranted?

4. The job of a legislator is, by definition, one of compromise. Still, decisions must be made. Can you name three to five legislators who you think on balance usually make good decisions for the business and economic health of the state?

5. Can you name three to five legislators who more often than not make decisions that – whatever their value might be to specific constituencies – are not good for the business and economic health of the state?

6. Overall, do you think the political vitality of Hawaii, as expressed by the Legislature, is healthy or unhealthy?

7. When you have an issue or concern that needs legislative attention, who is most likely to listen to you? Who is least likely?

8. Will you, on the record, list the three legislators who best meet the interests of you or your organization and three who do least well meeting the needs of you or your organization?

The longest answer we received to the final part of question 8 was “No.”

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Old to new | New to old
Sep 2, 2010 02:23 pm
 Posted by  mad monk

Good to see positive feedback for those legislators who are willing to help business...and well-deserved pans for those who actively work against business.

Oct 27, 2010 02:37 am
 Posted by  Solar

What we need is lots of modern energy sources, employing the people of Hawaii, not just the big companies and unions. This needs to be broad based and without impediments from the powers that be that are scrapping to "get theirs" in this tough climate.

Dec 17, 2011 03:54 pm
 Posted by  Awake

My dad sent me some money and this is the first time I have thought about the type of people that I hand my father's hard earned money over to across the counter. Hint....they don't look like me and I rarely see anyone such as myself on the other side of the counter. Oh well, I guess it works both ways.

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