comscore 2022 Election: Donna Mercado Kim | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Donna Mercado Kim

  • Donna Kim
Name on ballot:

Donna Mercado Kim

Running for:

State Senate – District 14

Political party:

Democrat

Campaign website:

donnakim.com

Current occupation:

State Senator

Age:

68

Previous job history:

State Representative and Councilmember

Previous elected office, if any:

State House of Representatives and Honolulu City Council

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

I have served in local and state government since 1982. I have held positions of leadership include President of the State Senate, Chair of Senate Ways & Means Committee.

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

The most pressing, and I hope temporary, issue is inflation. Two equally important issues for the district are the Red Hill fuel facility’s impact on our water aquifer and our aging infrastructure. Regarding inflation, the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates while President Biden is proposing the suspension of federal fuel taxes. The state can follow suit, but our actions are unlikely to have a significant economic impact, while any local tax reductions will have repercussions on the funding of vital government services. The Legislature just approved a rebate for Hawaii taxpayers that the governor has endorsed, and we will see what other steps we can take to moderate the effects of inflation.
The Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility crisis has drawn much-needed attention to the state of our infrastructure, not only at the federal level but state and county as well. I will continue to press the Defense Department to find a solution for Red Hill. Meanwhile, the Legislature just authorized $6.8 billion in capital improvements for schools, highways, harbors and airports, water systems, public facilities, and other needs. We will continue to invest heavily in our state infrastructure for the foreseeable future.

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?

The Legislature can revisit various proposals to ease the effects of inflation and our high cost of living, including tax credits, eliminating the general excise tax on food and drugs, temporarily reducing state taxes on fuel, and adjusting assorted government fees charged to taxpayers and the general public.

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?

See above response

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

Hawaii’s natural resources are fragile and precious and we must do everything possible to preserve what we have for our and future generations. Managing or limiting visitor arrivals is a policy I have and will continue to support. In particular, county enforcement of illegal short-term vacation rentals, collection of state and county taxes on authorized operators, implementation of impact/admission fees at heavily used attractions, and new state advertising and marketing approaches should enable us to better manage tourism, while ensuring our visitor industry remains healthy and sustainable.

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


The state government has lent its backing to many economic initiatives in the past: diversified agriculture, aquaculture, high technology, renewable energy, international meetings/gatherings, film and TV production, space exploration, and university-based research, to name a few. Some have been very successful, others less so. I believe we should welcome industries that show promise for local job creation and long-term business activity by offering state financial incentives that attract these enterprises without creating an unwelcome tax burden on our taxpayers.

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

The Legislature just authorized $1 billion to help address the state’s chronic shortage. The lion’s share of $600 million will be used for down payments and mortgage assistance for Native Hawaiians, thousands of whom have been waiting for decades for homesteads. Another $300 million will go to the rental housing fund to develop housing for working families. The balance will be divided among programs to create more affordable housing, help renters, and provide shelter for the homeless. I will continue to work with the county government officials to build more affordable rental and for-sale units, such as in Kalihi and along Honolulu’s rail line, as state housing agencies have proposed.
Additionally, I continue to advocate for funding for social services to help the homeless and support state and county programs targeting this group.

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

My advice to constituents has been to insist on getting vaccinated, including boosters, using masks, avoiding large gatherings whenever possible, and following the latest recommendations from public health officials. Complacency is probably the biggest threat to ending this pandemic and we must remain vigilant.

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?

Our so-called “higher-than-normal” spending was a direct response to severe cutbacks we had to make during the pandemic when our economy suffered, and tax revenues plummeted. I expect spending will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 as our economy and revenues stabilize. My top spending priorities will be education, infrastructure and housing.

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

Hawaii became the first state in the country to legalize abortions in 1970. Our state constitution protects a Woman’s right to safe abortions, and I will continue work to ensure that there is no reversal of our abortion laws.

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

We must continue to invest in public education, as we’ve consistently done over the years. For example, the 2022 Legislature adopted a bill to address salary inequities affecting the retention of senior teachers and appropriated $164 million to make up for teacher salary shortfalls and $32.5 million for staffing difficulties in certain locations and retention of special education teachers We have spent millions on air-conditioning, including $10 million more this coming year. We authorized $200 million to build new pre-kindergarten facilities and improve or expand existing ones and $7 million for a digital learning center. These sums are in addition to tens of millions of dollars designated for school repair and maintenance and allocations to the University of Hawaii for nursing education, the culinary program, athletics, Waikiki Aquarium, and other programs.

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

Throughout my public service career, I have been a voice for transparency and accountability in state and county government. My work has exposed contracting problems at the airports; overtime abuses by state employees; the Wonder Blunder at UH; flawed, unenforced fiscal policies at the University of Hawaii; and uncollected salary overpayments by state agencies, to name just a few of the situations I’ve shined the light. I will maintain my pursuit of greater legislative oversight of government operations and spending.

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

I support the construction of TMT. But I also supported and helped draft the final version of HB 2024 a bill establishing the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority to govern the future of astronomy facilities atop the summit. It is through mutual stewardship we are able to respect the culture and the Aina and still have a world class Astronomy Program at UH. We will see what actions this authority will recommend to enable astronomy research and support the activities of cultural practitioners.

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

I will continue to be an advocate for transparency and accountability in government. It is an often-lonely avocation but one that I believe is necessary and vital to an effective democracy.


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