Name: Kim Coco Iwamoto
Current occupation: Small Business Owner
Political experience: Elected Member, Board of Education 2006-2011
The duties of the lieutenant governor include legal name changes, certifying and processing documents, managing official documentation for the public, and becoming acting governor when the governor is away from the state. What would you do outside of these duties to bring value to the office?
The Lieutenant Governor’s (LG’s) office has been one of the most under-utilized resources in Hawaii government. While the physical footprint of the office is the same size as the Governor’s office, it has been wasted space – an oversized waiting room for a silent understudy to the Governor.With a staff of 13 people, the LG’s office could be doing so much more for the people of Hawaii.
Corporations are spending millions of dollars to elevate their influence at our state capitol; I want to make sure there is at least one office focused on elevating the people’s voice, our concerns and our solutions. The LG’s office can serve as the people’s office, where those of us working on the frontlines of our state’s most pressing problems, can build our coalitions, coalesce our power and reclaim our democracy from corporate lobbyists.
Hawaii’s public school system consistently ranks in the lower half of the country. What would you do to change this?
After serving on the Board of Education and investing more than 10,000 hours of service into our public education systems, I discovered that the biggest obstacle to delivering on the promise of quality public education has been the legislature’s consistent refusal to do its main job – raise sufficient revenue for state programs.
We could afford the best public education system, preschool through graduate school, if the legislature raised the corporate tax rate and property taxes on non-resident investment properties. Hawaii has the lowest corporate tax rates in the nation and we must demand that corporations pay their fair share of taxes on the profits they earn in our state.
Hawaii also has one of the lowest property tax rates in the nation, which has led to a disproportionate amount of foreign land ownership. 27% of all privately held land is owned by people and corporations that do not reside in Hawaii. To make matters worse, Hawaii offers additional tax breaks to those non-resident land investors.
The cost of rail continues to rise. Do you support future state tax increases to fund rail construction or operations? Why or why not?
I absolutely reject raising the General Excise Tax (GET) to pay for rail. Hawaii’s GET is a regressive tax system: it disproportionately burdens lowest income households while allowing our state’s wealthiest families to pay a lesser percentage of their income.
Furthermore, it is unfair and unreasonable to force neighbor island residents to pay for Oahu’s rail project when the City and County of Honolulu has done little to raise it’s own revenue to cover ever-rising costs. The Honolulu City Council must look to it’s own budget for ways to address the rail’s rising costs.
If our state is looking for public works projects, we have $4.3 billion in DOE repair and maintenance backlog. Our school campuses could be first rate for the same price tag as rail. Multi-national corporations have exploited corrupt governments all across the globe, always coming in with the lowest winning bid, only to have costs skyrocket 3-4 times the original price. Today, these same corporations are investing millions through Super PACs to make sure their hand-selected candidates are elected – so they can can continue to collect blank checks from Hawaii for unlimited change orders.
As more housing developments are announced and built, it appears very few actually cater toward Hawaii’s working class. Do you think this should change, and if so, how?
We must correct the affordable housing shortage that directly affects our homelessness crises. Too many of our adult kids and grandkids are moving away from Hawaii because they cannot afford a home. We need to implement a moratorium on building permits for luxury residential developments until all needed affordable developments are built. Affordable developments have such a narrow profit margin; they cannot outbid luxury development for limited resources, like land, labor and materials. We can reward luxury developers for helping to build affordable by issuing them credits they can remit to get first dibs on permits when the moratorium is lifted.
Is there a pressing issue in Hawaii that has gone overlooked and requires action?
Altogether, my opponents have spent 52 years in elected office collecting big money from big-pharma, agri-chemical corporations, or multi-national developers — all while wielding the power to pass or veto bills that impact the profits of those same corporate donors. I am the only candidate that has rejected contributions from corporations, their Political Action Committees (PACs) and the Super PACs they fund. Right now a corporation-funded Super PAC is investing over half a million dollars in commercials for one candidate, which has been a game-changer for him. Hawaii voters must show them that our elections are not for sale.
While my opponents were busy collecting money from corporations, Hawaii became the state with the highest rates of homelessness and the highest rates of families living paycheck to paycheck; our public schools are so underfunded that they accumulated over $4 billion in repair and maintenance backlog and are experiencing unprecedented teacher shortages.
We must hold the State Legislature to the same Sunshine Law as other elected officials. We must support stricter reporting requirements for financial disclosures elected officials and their campaigns. And we must put a stop to elected officials at the Legislature from filling their campaign coffers while they are in session, making decisions that affect the very same wealthy people and corporations from whom they are soliciting donations.