Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona released his policy agenda on jobs and the economy yesterday and said state government must reduce the financial and regulatory burdens on businesses.
The Republican candidate for governor said he wants time limits on permit reviews, a tax credit to offset the cost of withholding taxes on new hires at local firms, a tax credit for private construction and renovation projects, and a new government-backed venture capital fund to help with innovation.
Aiona said he would also continue efforts started under the Lingle administration to upgrade state airports, harbors and highways; enhance broadband capability; convert to alternative energy; and promote science and technology in education. He would also restore a research and development tax credit that was dropped this year in a dispute between the administration and lawmakers over when high-technology tax credits should expire.
Aiona, who met earlier this year with more than 100 small-business owners, is positioning himself as the guardian of business interests who would be more likely than his potential Democratic opponents — former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann — to resist tax and fee increases as governor.
"I think all of you realize that government does not create jobs," Aiona said at a news conference with several small-business owners at his campaign headquarters on Nimitz Highway. "Government does not create jobs that fuel the economy for the long term. But rather, as governor, I think we should make it easier for those who do create the jobs for the people of Hawaii."
Several ideas in Aiona’s plan were proposed by Gov. Linda Lingle and rejected by majority Democrats in the state Legislature.
Aiona did not mention Honolulu’s $5.5 billion rail project as a potential source of jobs and economic growth. He expressed doubts about claims from Hannemann and others that the project would provide a boost to job creation in the short term.
He said Lingle, who has yet to sign off on the project’s environmental impact statement, is correct to call for a separate financial analysis of the project. He said that while he has always supported some form of mass transit, he would wait for the financial analysis before deciding on how he would proceed with rail if elected governor.
"Until I can get a satisfactory answer in regards to how are we going to maintain it, I’ve got to question the financial aspect of this whole project and the wisdom of going forward now, during this time period, with a project that big," he said.
The Republican Governors Association has announced a new round of television and radio advertisements to promote Aiona’s education policies. Aiona has called for an independent management and financial audit of the state Department of Education and wants to move more state education spending down to the school level.
The RGA ran previous ads touting Aiona’s experience as a judge leading the state’s first drug court before becoming lieutenant governor.
Aiona faces John Carroll, a lawyer and former state lawmaker, in the primary.
Abercrombie, meanwhile, packaged his public-policy vision into a 43-page booklet he calls "A New Day in Hawaii." The booklet outlines the former congressman’s proposals to decentralize decision-making in public education, invest in early childhood education, encourage food and energy security, and promote new technology.
Hannemann has previously released his 10-point economic plan, which calls for a government audit to reduce waste; proceeding with infrastructure improvements to airports, harbors and highways; advancing rail transit; and bringing back the Hawaii Superferry.