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Election

2022 Election: Lauren Cheape Matsumoto

Lauren Matsumoto
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Name on ballot:

Lauren Cheape Matsumoto

Running for:

State House – District 38

Political party:

Republican

Campaign website:

www.laurenforhawaii.com

Current occupation:

State House Representative

Age:

35

Previous job history:

State House Representative 2012-present; Customer Service Associate, Publicis Touchpoint Solutions; Academic Mentor and Tutor, University of Hawai‘i; Farmer, Petersons’ Upland Farm; Lifeguard and Swim Instructor, Mililani Town Association

Previous elected office, if any:

State House Representative, 2012- present

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the community of Mililani where I was born and raised as were generations of my family before me. I learned to jump rope at Mililani Recreation Center 3; I had my first soccer practice at Hokuahiahi Park; I attended elementary, middle and high schools in Mililani; I got my first job in high school as a lifeguard at Mililani pools; and it is where I now live with my husband and my two children.
My educational background, experience in office and deep roots in the district are what qualify me to represent our community and state. I am a proud product of the Mililani Public School System. I attended Mililani Waena Elementary, was the very first sixth grade class at Mililani Middle School, and graduated from Mililani High School as a three-sport athlete. I graduated from the University of Hawai’i with a Bachelor of Arts in film production with the Academy for Creative Media and minored in Business and Japanese while playing Wahine Water Polo.
My first experience with the legislature was their utilization of my documentary film “Farm Grown,” about my family egg farm, Petersons’ Upland Farm, which I made to illustrate the plight of local livestock farmers. A feed subsidy bill was passed as a result. After I was elected to the legislature in 2012, I continued my education completing a Masters in Business Administration from Hawai‘i Pacific University where I was named valedictorian and gave the commencement address. I then went on to complete my Doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Argosy University with my dissertation entitled The 28 Percent: Women in State Elected Office and Leadership.
Since being elected in 2012, I have worked to gain the experience necessary to effectively serve my constituents and be an influential voice in the legislature. I am currently the Minority Floor Leader in the House of Representatives and since 2013 I have served as a co-convener of the Hawai‘i State Women’s Legislative Caucus. In this role I have spearheaded legislative initiatives as well as run the caucus’ annual Easter Basket Drive to help Hawai‘i’s women and children in need. Also beginning in 2013, I was elected to be a State Director for the national, non-partisan organization, Women In Government. Since that time, I have moved up in leadership within the organization and serve as the Vice-Chair on their Executive Board.
While my education and legislative experience add to my ability to serve as a representative, it is my love for my hometown and long term investment in my community that qualify me for this role.

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

The rising cost of living is one of the greatest issues facing residents both in my district as well as the state. Since I have held office, addressing the high cost of living in Hawai‘i has been a top priority. In light of COVID-19, the economy and the cost of living are more important than ever. I have introduced several bills to address the high cost of living:
Eliminate the General Excise Tax (GET) on food, medicine, and feminine hygiene products. Hawai‘i is one of only a handful of states that taxes food and medicine. Removing the GET from these necessities would immediately lower daily living costs for individuals and families in a wide range of income levels. This measure would go a long way in helping local families and benefit the community as a whole.
Remove the income tax for minimum wage earners and reduce rates for the middle class. Our state income tax rates are some of the highest in the nation, and working residents must pay nearly 7% marginal rates even if they’re working a minimum wage job. Removing the income tax for minimum wage earners and reducing it for the middle class rewards the hard working men and women in our communities and would give families additional funds to save, invest, or spend in the local economy.
Additionally, create opportunities for home ownership for local families. The high cost of housing in Hawai‘i is one of the largest contributors to our cost of living. We desperately need long-term, dedicated solutions to ensure our future generations can afford to stay in Hawai‘i. We can do this through creating a local housing market and creating a pre-taxed down payment savings program.
These examples are initiatives that can provide instant relief for our families, especially those affected by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to these measures there are other long-term and structural issues we need to continue to address. The high cost of housing in Hawai‘i is one of the largest contributors to our cost of living and needs long-term, dedicated solutions to ensure our future generations can afford to stay in Hawai‘i. We also need to look at our education system, especially higher education, to ensure our keiki are being prepared for future careers and will be ready to help diversify Hawai‘i’s economy. I’ve spent the last ten years dedicated to reducing our high cost of living and would be honored to continue working toward making Hawai‘i more affordable for our residents.

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?

A lot of what can be done in the short term reflects what can be done to address the high cost of living in general. In addition to what I mentioned in the previous question of eliminating the General Excise Tax on food and medical services; removing the income tax for minimum wage earners and reducing rates for the middle class; and creating opportunities for home ownership for local families we also can help families with early childhood education costs. This is important for many families because childcare is one of the biggest expenses after rent or mortgage. According to PATCH Hawai‘i, in 2019 the average cost of childcare per child in Hawai‘i is around $14,000 a year. As the mother of a four year old and a two year old, I know firsthand how expensive childcare is and how necessary it is in order for my husband and I to support our family and dedicate adequate time to our careers.
We can increase access to and reduce the cost of early childhood education through initiatives such as more teacher certification opportunities to address the teacher shortage within early learning and out-of-the-box solutions like tax-credits for businesses that provide on-site preschool for their employees and allowing taxpayers to spend pre-tax dollars on child care expenses including daycare, after school programs, and in-home care, thus reducing total taxable income. Early childhood care and education is an area that desperately needs to be addressed in order to help our local families with their monthly expenses.

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?

I support the temporary suspension of the state gas tax. While I understand that this may not have a significant impact on the current gas prices, families feel the pain of any rise in gas price, and even if this temporary suspension can lower the cost by a few cents, some potential for relief is better than nothing.

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

While tourism is and will remain a vital component of our state’s economy, there are many ways we can work towards sustainable management of tourism hotspots, such as beaches, beach parking and hiking trail access, among other areas of interest. We need to focus on creating a culture that will both accommodate visitors and show them the best of our state’s culture and heritage. Simultaneously we need to strengthen the legal protections to conserve the unique natural beauty of our state and provide for a more efficient and effective infrastructure. This will allow both residents and visitors alike to enjoy Hawai‘i. I support the implementation of visitor fees for state parks for tourists, while also protecting local access to such treasures with either kama’aina rates or free access for local residents, similar to the current admission fee and educational experience model implemented at Hanauma Bay.

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


The legislature as a whole must start laying the groundwork for the long term diversification of our local industries. The first three sectors that the state should invest in to diversify are the film industry, technology, and agriculture and agricultural tourism. In order to diversify we need to recognize what is realistic to implement in both the short and long term.
Film is an already existing, though underutilized industry we can leverage to help stimulate our economy as a short term solution while we are able to create long term sustainable solutions. The film industry can play a key role in the revitalization of our economy through creating jobs for our residents and adding much-needed dollars to help our state recover. Film is a large part of the current economy, and would be a strong, immediate economic driver. Throughout my time in the legislature and throughout the pandemic I have been in communication with the Hawai‘i State Film Office on how to make changes to push the film initiative forward in order to help diversify our economy. According to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, film had generated as much as $825M in overall economic activity up until the pandemic hit. As a member of the Economic Development committee in the legislature I have advocated to remove the current cap on the Hawai‘i Film Tax Credit. This would give us a competitive advantage over many of the other top film locations around the globe and further push the film industry in our state forward.
As a legislature we need to start laying the groundwork for the long term diversification of the tech and agricultural sector. While we are working on opening our current economy up safely we need to be laying the framework for the long-term goal of diversification. Once our economy is on the road to recovery I believe we should begin to diversify by focusing on our unique location in the center of the Pacific Ocean between Asia and the continental U.S. We should use this advantage to develop a strong tech industry here in Hawai‘i. For several years in the legislature I have championed several STEM bills that would strengthen the pipeline for technological jobs in our state. As an island state we have limited land space and tech will provide high paying jobs with a small footprint.
My great-grandfather started Petersons’ Upland Farm in Wahiawa in 1910 and my mother runs the farm today. As a fourth generation from a family farm I understand the benefits and challenges of farming in Hawai‘i. There are so few farmers on Oahu because much of the land is lacking water and electric infrastructure needed to successfully grow crops. In order to diversify our economy in the long run the state needs to provide avenues through tax credits or subsidies to help farmers begin to break ground. Additionally, Hawai‘i has a unique opportunity to be successful in agricultural tourism. We are the only place in the United States that can grow cacao. We have the potential to be the Napa Valley of chocolate. We need to encourage our local farmers to begin to invest in value added products to help them raise their bottom line.

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

The high cost of housing in Hawai‘i is one of the largest contributors to our cost of living. We desperately need long-term, dedicated solutions to ensure our future generations can afford to stay in Hawai‘i. This past session I voted in support of HB 1837 which passed as Act 305 this past July. Act 305 establishes a statewide working group across multiple agencies with the instruction of reducing barriers and driving affordable housing forward. Additionally, I introduced three bills that would help combat the high cost of living and support work towards home ownership. We sought to implement an IRS Pre-Tax savings plan to assist first time home buyers with saving for down payment and closing costs in my bill HB2212. HB1920 would establish a local housing market that is tied to Hawai‘i State residents’ incomes, providing housing options that are affordable relative to wages for residents of the state. HB1922, similar to HB 1837, would create a temporary task force focused on providing mechanisms for collaboration between state and counties to create a local housing market. These issues are important for the financial stability of our families because with home ownership there is the ability for more financing opportunities such as a Home Equity Line of Credit for unexpected expenses.
In regards to increasing supply, I support efforts to invest in infrastructure that would allow denser construction in the urban core, and the state and county’s partnership to increase Transit Oriented Development along the Honolulu Rail Line. The State should also look into innovative and alternative programs for housing such as 3D printed housing and modular homes that can be manufactured in the state.

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

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawai‘i experienced an incredibly strict lockdown and Executive leadership took extensive measures to ensure public safety. As our understanding of the disease increased over time, and as vaccines and other countermeasures became available, our policies about masks, vaccines mandates, and social distancing continued to evolve. While it appears COVID-19 will be in the community for the foreseeable future, I believe each person is responsible for their individual actions and we need to allow both our state’s economy and our families a fighting chance to financially survive after two of the toughest years in recent memory. I have proposed legislation that would allow for more remote work options. I believe it is in Hawai‘i’s best interest to create policy that would extend work from home options, not only in case of emergencies, but as a regular practice. This can help deter the spread of illness, create healthier work life balance for families, and it can even benefit our environment and provide traffic relief. If we allow employees to work from home one to two days a week on a revolving schedule with their coworkers, this could significantly cut down on traffic congestion as well as reduce emissions.

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?

I would like to see investment into several different industries to help diversify Hawai‘i’s economy. As I mentioned in an earlier answer, the first three industry sectors that the state should invest in to diversify are the film industry, technology, and agriculture and agricultural tourism. There is opportunity to invest in development of the sector itself as well as create educational pathways so that our schools help inspire and teach our keiki to seek employment in vital and growing industries like these.

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

Hawaii’s abortion law was in place prior to the 1973 Supreme Court decision. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision should not have any effect in the state’s abortion policy.

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

I have taken actions both in my legislative capacity as a State House Representative and in a personal presence in the schools themselves. In the legislature I have introduced several bills over the years to encourage opportunities for a well-rounded education. I’ve introduced legislation regarding physical education, computer science, vocational classes, and extra curricular support for programs like Future Farmers of America. I have advocated for having funding brought down to the school level to give principals and teachers more flexibility in how funds are allocated.
In the 2019-2020 sessions I introduced a bill that would create discretionary sub accounts for schools to fund minor repair and maintenance projects. This is beneficial because those who work at the schools are the most familiar with the needs of their schools and it would help restore faith in government if families could see necessary repairs being done quickly to our schools. The money is already in the Special Fund for repairs and maintenance but arguably isn’t being allocated quickly enough to make a noticeable effect on Hawai‘i’s schools. Giving individual schools the ability to determine their own spending priorities will expedite the most important projects. I have also advocated for a statewide database system so we can track where all of the funds are going. This would be especially important in the Department of Education since a majority of our state funding goes towards education.

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

For years I have advocated for and introduced legislation for a remote testimony program. Unfortunately, it took the pandemic to make this program a reality. However, I am pleased to say that we now have a hybrid program available to the public allowing them to submit testimony in person, or remotely. I also support increasing this access even further by introducing legislation that would allow pre-recorded testimony videos submitted before the convening of the committee hearing.
One of the best ways to ensure that our legislative process is transparent is to educate the public on how to get involved. There are a number of tools available to the public through the state Capitol, like the Public Access Room and legislative website. Additionally, my office has worked diligently to create instructional guides on how to get involved in the legislative process which are available on our capitol website RepMatsumoto.com. We have also created a cartoon activity book for elementary age students about the legislature to teach children the importance of government.

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

The Thirty Meter Telescope has showcased tension across our state. On one hand there is the promise of job creation, scientific discovery and the potential to be the leader in exploration and innovation. On the other hand, however, this comes at the cost of many Hawaiian voices and long held cultural belief systems that are ingrained in Hawai‘i’s heritage. It is the responsibility of elected officials to navigate and balance the will of the people for the benefit of the entire population of the state.
Watching the situation unfold surrounding Mauna Kea it is clear that there is a strong disconnect between the State and the public in the process for approving projects like the Thirty Meter Telescope. I introduced legislation in both 2020 and 2021 that would have required the State to overhaul its EIS website and information to make it more user friendly and ensure people could search for projects in their area or by topic and allow them to sign up for email notifications so they are aware of new projects. My resolution HR 82 passed this last session, urging the office of Planning and Sustainable Development’s Environmental Review Program to create a task force that would make these improvements to their website and EIS process. This will effectively give people a stronger, more proactive voice in the decision making process, instead of learning about projects like the Thirty Meter Telescope after they have been finalized.
This past session we also passed a bill that was an attempted compromise surrounding TMT. The success of this measure will be tested in the months to come.

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

As your representative for the past ten years, I have learned that one of the most important aspects of my job is an open communication line with those in my district to intimately understand their needs. The top priority in my office is being available, providing regular legislative updates, sending out surveys to hear your thoughts, and ensuring that you are heard, respected and included in the legislative process.
In addition to my legislative work at the capitol, I have made it my priority to focus on work in my community. I have tirelessly served our community throughout my life from elementary school when I was an American Heart Association Ambassador doing jump rope performances at schools across the islands, to serving our state during my year as Miss Hawai‘i in 2011. Since becoming a legislator in 2012 my capitol office has focused on our community through activities and programs such as our high school and college internship program, continuing to perform jump rope tours at schools, dressing up as the Cat in the Hat or Elsa from Disney’s Frozen to read to children at schools, and hosting annual capitol talks and tour for members of the community to learn about the legislative process. I also finished a project I have been working on for several years, a children’s activity book to educate keiki on Hawai’i State Legislature which I distributed to all the elementary schools in the district. I am passionate about making a difference in our state.
Finally, as someone whose family has lived in this community for four generations, you can trust that I have our community’s best interest at heart. This district is where I was raised, and where my husband and I have chosen to raise our children. I know that the decisions we make today will impact our children, and their children after them. I am invested here and have been honored to serve you in the State House of Representatives for the past ten years. I humbly ask for your continued support. Thank you!


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