comscore 2022 Election: Amy A. Perruso | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2022 Election: Amy A. Perruso

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  • Amy Perruso
Name on ballot:

Amy A. Perruso

Running for:

State House – District 46

Political party:

Democratic Party

Campaign website:

Current occupation:




Previous job history:

Veteran social studies teacher and teacher union leader

Previous elected office, if any:

Hawaii State House, District 46

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

As a veteran DOE social studies teacher and union leader, engaged community organizer and experienced legislator, I have worked hard to develop my skills so that I can more effectively serve my community. As the Vice Chair of Agriculture, I have worked to support regenerative agriculture, small farmers and local food sovereignty with farm-to-state infrastructure, support for small farmers and accountability for ADC. As the co-convener of the Keiki Caucus, I have created a unique high school legislative internship program and have facilitated passage of critical legislation to protect and support our children and youth. And I have worked hard to develop the listening and collaboration skills necessary to build relationships and facilitate passage of the kinds of positive legislation we saw passed in the 2022 session.

What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?

Growing cynicism and lack of confidence in government is the most pressing issue facing residents in my community. Recent revelations of wrongdoing and corrupt behavior by elected officials who engage in quid pro quo activities, and never seem to be held accountable, have led to the erosion of hope for the future, because we all understand that government and public policy is how we can best address our shared issues. In response to the growing malaise, I have joined others in pledging to turn down political bribes in any form and reject all campaign contributions more than $100 from corporate PACs and lobbyists, as well as from the executives of luxury and out-of-state developers, major landowners, hotel conglomerates, energy monopolies, multinational GMO seed companies and military contractors. I am also working with my colleagues on campaign finance reform and legislation that would repeal the exemption of legislators from critical ethics guidelines. We cannot move forward together until we have restored trust.

Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the state level to help Hawaii residents cope with high consumer prices?

We can first extend and strengthen state legislation originally designed to prevent price gouging during a state of emergency, as retailers and others have been taking advantage of spikes in demand by charging exorbitant prices for necessities, which is a clear violation of unfair trade practices law. While I do not advocate criminal penalties, I do think offenders should face much steeper financial penalties. We should also consider instituting price controls on basic goods and services, subsidizing locally produced goods and produce, and controlling housing costs for our most vulnerable by instituting rent control.

Hawaii’s rising gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Should Hawaii lower or temporarily suspend state taxes on gasoline to help ease the pain at the pump?

While the proximate or immediate cause of current increases in gasoline prices is clearly linked to the war in Ukraine, this is a situation (fossil fuel scarcity) that is going to be endemic. This problem is going to continue into the foreseeable future, and we will suffer as long as we are dependent on fossil fuels that have to be shipped across the ocean. We need to continue to use the minimal barrel tax to help our communities transition away from fossil fuel driven transportation and to make sure we are reinvesting these funds straight back into the most vulnerable communities, the communities of color that have really borne the brunt of environmental racism driven by our dependence on fossil fuels.

Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.

I support efforts to slow and limit the number of tourists through a range of measures. We need to institute a substantive global ‘green fee,’ empower strict enforcement of state and county measures limiting vacation rentals, and use legislation to protect good jobs for our working class families. If we want to move towards a more just, sustainable and prosperous future in these islands, we need to move rapidly to invest in the vision we share while taxing heavily those economic drivers that bring little or no benefit to local community members.

Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?

Yes, it can, and the state government can do a great deal to support the effort. To begin, we can stop subsidizing and start taxing those economic drivers, like tourism and the military, that create such negative impacts on our community. We should shift to invest in ourselves, starting with our ability to feed and care for ourselves. Our investment in agriculture still hovers around .4% of the total budget, and the vast majority of state or public lands, which are properly understood as seized or stolen lands, are being leased at rock-bottom prices to multinational GMO seed companies who are not growing local food for local consumption. Our public schools, where we should be prioritizing investment, still suffer from a dangerous backlog in unaddressed repair and maintenance projects and a teacher shortage crisis driven by our failure to provide decent pay. Most critically, we need to invest in our public workforce, as low pay and crushing workload demands have demoralized and gutted most departments, so that we can forward the common good.

What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?

Until now, the prevailing approach to housing has been to focus exclusively on building more “affordable” housing units by incentivizing developers, deregulating the housing market, and exempting land from the public trust. However, to address the housing crisis, we need to shift power from people who profit from housing to people who depend on housing for shelter. This means that we have to look at strategies that regulate Hawaiʻi’s obscenely hot housing market and ground this market in our local economy rather than in national and international circuits of real estate investment. We can do this by implementing rent regulation, strengthening tenants’ rights so that renters can count on stable housing, and curbing speculation through targeted taxation. We should tax exorbitant property wealth by taxing REITs, levying property tax surcharges on non-owner occupied luxury residences (with exemptions that protect our kupuna), and imposing a meaningful conveyance tax on vacant luxury homes. And we should be using these additional streams of tax revenue to fully fund our public schools, which provide the most important opportunities for economic, social and political equality. The legislature has recently allocated $15 million for Ohana Zones, and we need to work on regional plans within each county to more effectively address the problem, which has hitherto only been addressed in a somewhat ad hoc, scattered way. We need to develop plans from the ground up, originating in community, so that everyone understands that it has to be a kākou thing.

What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic has revealed how fragile our health system is, in part because we rely so heavily on services from a health sector that has so been so thoroughly privatized and become so dependent on the profit motive. Wahiawa General Hospital, a private, independent hospital with the only long-term care facilities from the North Shore (Ann Pearl in Kaneohe) to Pearl City (Pearl City Nursing Home), has just closed those facilities because they cannot derive sufficient profit from keeping the facilities open. State experts say we need more long-term care beds, not fewer, especially under pandemic conditions. This is a statewide crisis, as our population rapidly ages and so many of our young people, who previously would have provided care for their kūpuna in their homes, have been moving to the continent because they cannot survive, much less thrive, here. We need to do much more to make Hawai’i affordable for local families, and part of that transition needs to be more public financial support for public health and public health facilities, specifically by increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate. If we invest public dollars into strengthening long-term care and other aspects of our health care system, we will be investing in ourselves and developing a stronger circular, regenerative economy.

Hawaii isn’t likely to see a repeat of this year’s $2 billion revenue surplus which allowed higher-than-normal spending on state programs and projects. If elected, what will your top spending priorities be?

My top spending priorities will focus on investments in sustainable and regenerative agriculture and aquaculture, improving farm-to-school infrastructure through upgrading our DOE school production kitchens and up-training our school cafeteria staff and creating a grant program for schools that use local food, improving our disaster preparedness by strengthening existing physical structures and providing for managed retreat, providing public health support for our most economically vulnerable, fully funding the public sphere by increasing the pay for public workers so that we can adequately staff the state’s operations, and providing funding to address the nearly $1 billion repair and maintenance backlog to address the dangerous disrepair of DOE schools. These are all investments we need to make in ourselves so that we can build a brighter future together.

What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?

While the right to abortion is enshrined in Hawai’i state law, we still struggle with questions of access on the neighbor islands. There are currently abortion clinics on Kauai, Molokai and Lanai, and just one in Hilo on Hawaii island. The majority of abortions in Hawaii are performed by a small number of doctors located at just a handful of clinics. We can make sure that we support and fully fund abortion access on the neighbor islands. Additionally, we can write state law to more strictly control the messaging used by “crisis pregnancy centers” so that our local people are not misled into thinking that these centers will provide abortions. And finally, we need to declare ourselves a sanctuary state for vulnerable people in other states who have their rights to bodily autonomy and sovereignty so radically undermined by this decision.

What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?

We should work to create the schools our keiki deserve. This work begins with a hard pivot to educate the whole child, because all children should have opportunities for a well-rounded education. We need to allocate instructional time and financial resources to teaching visual arts, music, theatre, dance, and native Hawaiian history and culture.
 And we need to support all students: the teachers of our special education and bilingual students should have a more limited case load, additional preparation time and more funding for instructional resources. We also need to establish reasonable maximum class sizes for different levels within the system so that students can get individualized attention. We need to do more to attract and retain high quality teachers, enabling them to earn salaries comparable to teachers in districts with a similar high cost of living. And we should move away from standardized testing as rapidly and as completely as possible. Authentic assessments should be developed that will provide teachers with formative information to use in the classroom to meet the needs of their students, and we need to make sure that parents understand their unrestricted right to excuse their children from high stakes tests.

What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?

We need stronger public funding for elections, grounded in community support as evidenced in signatures, so that those who are actually willing to connect with and listen to community can be elected. I support banning all campaign contributions, not just fund-raising events, during session and I think legislators should no longer be exempt from Sunshine Law, open records law and ethics requirements.

Lobbyists should have to document precisely which organization’s funds, from their portfolio, are supporting the candidates for which they are providing financial support. There should also be rules put into place in the House, at least, to prevent a member who has received donations from interested parties appearing before a particular committee from chairing that committee. The chairs make most of the critical decisions in the committees, and if you remove the financial incentive to favor donors, the law-making will be much more likely to serve the common good.

Any bill proposed to the legislature should require a full committee vote to defer, and all bills need to be heard and voted on in their initial respective committees. This might mean that the length of session would have to be extended and legislators paid for full-time work. But this will require legislators to take a position on issues without protection from committee chairs. With better information about their legislators’ true political stances, citizens can make better informed decisions in elections.

I support reasonable term limits for state legislators, perhaps 5 or 6 terms for the House (10-12 years) and 3 or 4 terms in the Senate (10-14 years – their term lengths already vary). Serving in public office should not be a career, but we do need our elected representatives, those responsible for writing and passing laws that will govern the polity, to be well-prepared, knowledgeable, and experienced so that they can be effective.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?

I oppose the construction of TMT because Mauna A Wakea is sacred space and its sacrality should be respected.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

I love my community, and I am honored and humbled to have been able to serve.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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