Joe Souki, 2010 candidate for State House District 8, Transcript:
Introduction: My name is Joseph Souki. I am currently an incumbent member of the House, 8th District. I am from District 8 all the way from Kahakuloa to Waikapu. This past year, I’ve been part of the leadership and the chairman of the Transportation Committee. I have a title they’ve given to me (I don’t quite know why they call me) Speaker Emeritus, I guess from my term when I served as Speaker of the House. As far as my goals for this coming year, the broad goals of course is to see how we can increase the income stream coming into the state of Hawaii. And looking into all of the programs that we have–which ones we
can merge and make some adjustments within the particular programs. Because the income and money and funding is going to be detained again. Because a lot of the way that we balance the budget this past year was one-time funding, and that’s going to be over in one year. So we need to look at how we’re goning to have a continuum of funding for all programs like health, so that we can maintain the quality of life for Hawaii.
Civil Unions: What is your position on civil unions? Should same sex couples be granted the same rights and privileges as legally married couples?
Answer: I voted against civil unions and historically, I have been pro marriage for heterosexuals. I led the debate for the House against same-sex marriage in 1998 (I believe) when it came about where they had a Constitutional Ammendment giving the Legislature the right to determine whether we should continue to have heterosexual marriage or to allow same-sex marriage. Now, it’s not that I have anything against the gays–I believe that they deserve the same civil rights as anyone. And that is why back in 1998, we passed the Reciprocal Beneficiaries Act. That is to provide civil laws that was not allowed previously, both for the gays and for others. I would want to look at that law again, and if we need to ammend the law, and if I can use a term to make it more ‘civil’, and to provide more rights for the citizens of the state of Hawaii, I would certainly look at that. I would want to propose that those that are in favor of the civil rights, do come and, If I am elected, come and see me and I’m willing to sit down and talk to them. I have always been in favor of civil rights for all of the citizens of the state of Hawaii.
Honoapiilani Hwy: The widening/realignment of the Honoapiilani Hwy has been discussed for years, yet only a small portion is currently under construction. How long will it really take and what alternatives do you envision to alleviate infrastructure concerns now?
Answer: Yes, that is a problem. These past two years, I’ve been trying to pass legislation called the Highway Modernization Fund. That’s $4 billion in funding to provide highway improvements both for highways, roads, dams, levies, and the whole thing. But if we can pass this–the last it was a House bill and the Senate approved it–unfortunately, I couldn’t get the votes in the House in the end because it would require an increase in gasoline tax. And none of the members was in favor of that, of course in an election year. But I believe we have no alternative for the state of Hawaii, other than to look at the Highway Modernization again. It’s a $4 billion program. It could take care of the Lahaina problem that we have on the Honoapiilani Highway and also the problem of going from Kahului all the way to Paia and on after that. Because there it is terrible also. We need to look at that also. So Maui is behind on highways even though I must say, I’m very happy with the ones that we’ve built recently–at Haleakala Highway, and at Kihei, and of course we’re finally working on the bypass in Lahaina. And with some improvements there is some work going on in Lahaina now. But this Highway Modernization would resolve the problem and hopefully we’ll have the spirit of the legislature to pass the bill this coming session.
Protection of Natural Resources/Water: The state commission on water resource management recently issued rulings on streams in East Maui and at Na Wai ‘Eha in the West Maui Mountains. Are the new in-stream flow standards sufficient or will they ultimately hurt the struggling sugar industry?
Answer: I believe it will hurt the sugar industry. It was a compromise position and I think the sugar industry is looked upon as they probably have no choice but to accept the compromise–looking at the mood of the DLNR at that particular time. There’s a lot of water that’s going into the ocean now, and I think have to kind of re-look at that again. I know there’s feeling among many people that we need the excess water running into the ocean because it will increase the aqua-system within that water and provide for a better fishing situation where you get different kinds of fish that thrive in this salt and fresh water mixture. I believe the ultimate solution is to build more reservoirs. We need to invest in more reservoirs. I think our aquifers are running dry. And so we need to look at an additional reservoir in the Waikamoi area. And we need to look in Hana where we can capture some of the water, because it rains almost every night over there. Be we have to make some tough calls, because if we don’t do anything as far as increasing the water capacity, we will not have enough water for housing… And also if we want to keep the sugar plantation going, that’s 800 employees, and you put the multiplier effect on that, you’re going to have them shutting down. They’re loosing money right now, and it’s only through the generosity of A&B that they can continue at this point. Because nobody wants to run a business where you’re going to lose money. And what’s going to happen to all of that land. You’ve got over 50,000 acres. It’s going to turn into a desert. I don’t think we want that. There’s no crop presently that can take the place of sugar.
Education: What do you plan to do to prevent a repeat of the furlough Friday situation at public schools?
Answer: Again, it all goes back to money. If we don’t have an increase in revenue, and in these past months we’ve had the Council of Revenues come in with some positive signs. And if we continue to have these revenue increases, then we can look at not having furlough Fridays continue. But we have to remember, as I mentioned previously when we began, a lot of the funding that we had that we did to balance the budget, was one-time funding only. So unless we have a corresponding increase in revenue someplace else, you’re going to have to continue to have furloughs. Or the unthinkable, which is making cuts, which we’ve made a lot of cuts already. Members last year, we had to make a $1.2 billion adjustment in the budget. And the year before also. So that’s a lot of adjustments to make. So right now, you’ll find a lot of the programs are running at one-half speed or three-quarter speed. They are not running at the full capacity. I cannot tell you that things are going to be hunky-dory. We need to make the tough choices, maybe more cuts, or look at some revenue enhancements.
Closing thoughts: Right now we are campaigning very hard. I have some very tough competition. I have a facebook. You can write me in facebook. Infact in facebook, I have all of my priorities for the year. I don’t have any campaign headquarters but feel free to call me anytime. We look forward to hearing from you.