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Seeking the Business Vote

Top candidates for governor explain how they would make it easier for businesses to succeed

(page 2 of 3)

Would you consider raising any tax impacting business?

Abercrombie: “I don’t think we need to increase any taxes right now. I believe we need to improve people’s confidence that their taxes are being spent wisely.” However, he did say he would consider working with the Public Utilities Commission to increase the Public Benefits Fund. For an average of $1 a month per household, the state could materially step up its energy-conservation programs, saving far more for average households than they would pay, he says. Hawaii has to capture some of the $5 billion being spent now on imported oil.

     Photo: Mark Arbeit

Aiona: “Taxes do not need to be raised. However, if we continue down the path of raising one of the already highest tax burdens in the nation, businesses will not invest, will not hire and will not grow.”

Hannemann: “It is hard to see how raising any business taxes would be productive for the economy at this time. Before looking at any revenue enhancements, we need to make sure we are spending hard-earned tax dollars wisely by looking for cost savings, cutting expenditures, seeking grants and other measures.”

Would you eliminate or change any regulation or law impacting business?

Abercrombie: Conduct a full-scale review of all regulatory laws to achieve streamlining while still protecting the public interest. An example, he says, is the Public Utilities Commission, where the process slows down progress toward energy independence and stifles energy entrepreneurs. An independent Hawaii Energy Authority would combine policy oversight now found in the Energy Office with some regulatory authority.

Aiona: While regulations have their place for public health and safety, “Over the years, the approval process has become too protracted and bureaucratic and it lacks transparency.” He would place time limits in which permits or approvals must be issued “or the application will be deemed approved.”

Hannemann: Evaluate and update the law governing environmental-assessment requirements “in light of recent court decisions (such as the Supreme Court’s Superferry decision). The uncertainty over what’s required under this law has created tremendous frustration, not only for businesses but for those government agencies charged with overseeing zoning and planning matters.”

Are business-reporting requirements, such as consumer complaints, adequate or too onerous? Should they be more transparent?

Abercrombie: “The key is to ensure the public is protected in ways that are not too burdensome to businesses. In the end, protecting consumers is good for the public and good for business.”

Aiona: “Annual business reporting requirements can also be fulfilled online and certificates of good standing and other business documents can be purchased online and downloaded instantly.” He says this was accomplished by the Lingle administration, while, at the same time, “cutting just about every fee and charge to the maximum extent allowed by law.” He says he would also reduce or eliminate the time complaints remain posted online when they are not upheld.

Hannemann: Business should have the right to respond to a complaint before it becomes public. Adjudicated complaints should be posted, but only after the oversight agency has fully investigated the matter and rendered its decision, he says.

Should the Land Use Commission be abolished or maintained, or should its mission be changed in some way?

Abercrombie: “As they are with other aspects of government, many people have expressed frustration with the Land Use Commission and wonder if it is truly meeting the public interest.” He says it is important to restore public confidence in the commission. The LUC’s basic mission is to ensure sustainability for the Islands and, to that end, he says, he has promised to talk with experts and community people to determine how best to accomplish that mission.

Aiona: Did not respond.

Hannemann: “There is no doubt that something needs to be done about the Land Use Commission.” Many LUC duties duplicate county processes, adding to bureaucracy and delay, he says. Moreover, the contested-case format “lengthens the process and imposes a high level of uncertainty for any business applicant considering investing in our state.” He will propose legislation that eliminates some LUC duties that duplicate county processes; eliminates the need for an environmental assessment at this level; and creates a quasi-legislative process instead of the current adversarial contested-case hearing process.

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