Name on ballot:
Henry J.C. Aquino
State Senate – District 19
State Representative (District 38), Non-Profit Executive Director
Previous job history:
2008-Present Hawaii State Legislature, State Representative
2010-Present Waipahu Community Association, Executive Director
2007-2009 Waipahu Community Association, Program Coordinator
2005-2007 Catholic Charities Hawaii, Classroom Presenter
Previous elected office, if any:
State Representative (2008 to present)
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
During the last 14 years, I have served as a state representative, representing the 38th House district. I utilized my legislative, work, educational and community experiences to continue to improve the quality of life for our residents and address critical issues on their behalf. Throughout my legislative career, I served on various State House committees including Labor & Public Employment, Education, Higher Education, Consumer Protection & Commerce, Finance, Housing; chaired the Public Safety & Military Affairs Committee and currently serving as chair of the Transportation Committee. I developed the experience and an understanding of representing communities and learning different issues that most residents consider to be important and necessary.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
The issues that come up the most are related to our quality of life including traffic congestion, protection of jobs and ensuring core government services and programs are accessible and provided. If elected, I will continue to work hard to find ways to address traffic for commuters in Central and West Oahu, keep our residents working by continuing to support our key economic drivers and emerging industries, ensure better and safer roadways and help to invest more in our public infrastructure and the delivery of these services including areas of education, affordable housing, transportation, health and human services.
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?
Federal intervention on rate adjustments and other measures to curb inflation could take some time before significantly impacting the rising cost of living. This past session, the Legislature approved an increase in the minimum wage, made the state earned income tax credit refundable and permanent and passed an income tax refund of $300 per taxpayer. These actions, taken at the state level, are intended to address the high cost of living by increasing disposable income, thus helping residents with high consumer prices.
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?
Suspending the state gas tax of sixteen cents per gallon may not be as impactful overall but could provide some level of reprieve for residents. However, suspension of the tax could impact current and future state highway projects by way of overall cost, financing, and timely delivery of these projects. We should continue to discuss the idea of lowering or temporarily suspending the gas tax in order to ensure that such impacts can be avoided and relief does not come at the cost of impacting current and future state highway projects.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I support our visitor industry as it remains our biggest economic driver and provides for the livelihoods of thousands of residents working in the lodging, transportation, and hospitality sectors of our economy. However, I understand the concerns of various communities on the impacts of tourism. We need to work with entities tasked with the strategic management and nurturing of Hawaii’s tourism marketing efforts while balancing the needs of our communities, particularly in areas of congestion and public asset management.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
Diversification is necessary to ensure our state’s continued economic recovery and future sustainability. By reinvesting in public infrastructure, supporting our public university and school system to provide quality education, providing workforce development through public/private efforts, finding other creative ways to develop good-paying employment opportunities, and supporting emerging and existing industries for future economic growth, we can continue this pivot from a tourism-dependent economy.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
This past session, there were historic infusions of funding for housing for heavily needed areas including for Native Hawaiians and the rental housing trust fund. In addition, a working group bill passed to address affordable housing issues surrounding development needs and current government processes will help to further identify areas to increase housing opportunities. I believe that we should place a stronger emphasis on vacation rentals enforcement on the county level to increase inventory for local renters. Other areas to address our housing shortages would be to develop on government lands (state/county lands if allowable) and find incentives for developers to build for housing needs. To help address homelessness, I support further expansion of ohana zones pilot projects. In addition, creating a recruitment system, through legislation or public/private partnerships, which would enroll those qualified into workforce development and support programs, is another venture that would help improve the livelihoods of homeless individuals and assist counties dealing with homelessness.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
Ongoing vigilance and personal responsibility should be strongly promoted to help our residents get through the ongoing pandemic. Staying home while you’re sick, practicing good hygiene, masking when necessary and staying updated on vaccinations are good health practices for people to follow.
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?
This year’s general funding surplus allowed the Legislature to address longtime and overdue obligations and allowed us to stabilize needed areas across state government. If elected, my priorities would be to continue to support education and address the maintenance backlog, further bolstering of our rental housing trust fund to plan and build more housing statewide and save for the state’s rainy-day fund.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
Unlike other jurisdictions that will be impacted by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, it is my understanding that the Hawaii State Constitution and existing laws currently protect and provide medical access for women who choose to undergo these procedures.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
Ongoing investments in our public school system ensures that every child in our state can receive a quality education. I support a continued focus on providing needed resources in the classroom, improving facilities that are conducive to learning and safe for our children and staff and attracting and retaining quality educators.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
There are several ways to ensure our current system of governance can be open and transparent to involve the general public as much as possible. First, the Legislature can continue to allow in-person and virtual access to committee hearings and floor session proceedings to offer flexible opportunities for public involvement. This is particularly helpful for neighbor island residents who may not be able to attend sessions and hearings in-person. Secondly, increasing the notice requirement for bill hearings could be another way to encourage public participation during the legislative process.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
Because of the educational and economic opportunities and activities that come with the Thirty Meter Telescope, I am in support of it. This would position Hawaii’s standing as an educational center within the Asian-Pacific region. I understand the concerns of the community when it comes to the management of the Mauna, but through negotiation and coming to the table, we can bring about this project that will have a profound impact on today’s generation and future generations to come.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the community of Waipahu over the last 13 years in the Hawaii State Legislature as State Representative. If elected to the State Senate, I will continue to work hard to make our communities of Pearl City, Waipahu, West Loch Estates, Honouliuli and Hoopili the best that it can be. My family and I would like to extend our warmest wishes to you and your loved ones, and we humbly ask for your support this primary election.
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