VIDEO: Roz Baker – Candidate Profile 2012

June 27, 2012, 10:05 AM HST · Updated July 23, 1:15 PM
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Sen. Roz Baker. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Interview by Wendy Osher; transcribed by Nikki Caccamo

INTRO: Tell us about yourself and your campaign.

Aloha. I’m Roz Baker, candidate for State Senate 6 District. It’s been my privilege to represent the people of South and West Maui, as your state senator for the past 10 years.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together, but now more than ever it’s important to have an experienced leader with a proven track record, fighting for you at the capitol. As chair of commerce and consumer protection committee, I’ve championed mortgage foreclosure reforms to help distressed home owners and insurance reforms to protect consumers.

From securing safe swimming zones, to fighting for resources for our schools, roadways and hospital, I’ve worked hard to translate your concerns into action.

Even in these lean economic times the past four years, our Maui Senate team has brought home over half a billion dollars in projects and programs. That means jobs for our residents and improvements for our economy.

I want to continue using my years of legislative experience and leadership to work for you. I humbly ask for your vote. Mahalo.

Question 1: What is your number one priority for the South and West Maui Community in this upcoming term and how do you plan to implement action to accomplish this goal.

My number one priority for South and West Maui is the economy and jobs. We need to continue to make strategic investments to grow our economy and create jobs.

One way to do that is to continue investing in repair and maintenance of our public facilities like; Maui Memorial Medical Center, UH Maui College, our K-12 school facilities, upgrading our harbors and boat ramps, and our airport runways.

I want to secure the remaining funding to keep the Lahaina bypass project moving forward and to work with state and county transportation planners on improvements, safety improvements to Pi’ilani Highway.

And then with our federal delegation to see just how we can jump start the Kihei to upcountry roadway. Our county is growing and we need to keep our infrastructure up to date and prepare for the future.

I also want to invest in teachers and students. Particularly project based student centered learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math and career health path ways. We need to look at providing more family residency programs to grow our own doctors and expand our learning labs for experiential and community continuing education for our nurses.

We have lots of talent here at home and growing our own health care professionals and tech professionals keeping our infrastructure repaired maintained and developed along with an accountable tax credit to expand our film industry and locally grown and produced bio diesel as well as solar and wind energy will allow our economy to grow and flourish and provide needed services and jobs for our residents.

A growing economy and jobs are important to our quality of life. That’s my top priority for the coming year.

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Question 2: Many in Kihei have been waiting years for a high school in South Maui. Do you anticipate the introduction of legislation to expedite the process or measures to address the growing need in the region?

Since I began to represent South Maui in 2002, I’ve made it my top priority to secure funding to build Kihei High School.

Through my efforts in 2004 the legislature appropriated 5.5 million dollars for planning and design.

However, only a portion of that $5.5 million was ever released by (then-)governor Lingle. In 2008 through my renewed efforts the legislature appropriated $20 million dollars for land, construction and equipment for Kihei High School.

Again governor Lingle only released $5 million for land acquisition. This year I persuaded my Senate colleagues to include $20 million for Kihei High School in the Senate draft of the executive supplemental budget. Unfortunately, the House didn’t agree.

Kihei High school should be built as a public private partnership. To facilitate that, my goal is to obtain funding for infrastructure work necessary to move forward to construction. The land has been secured, the EIS is under review.

The school site is raw land and needs sewer, water and electricity brought to it and the school’s intersection at Pi’ilani Highway must be improved. Since the state is in better financial shape than it’s been in many years, I know I can secure funding for Kihei High School.

I’ll continue working with Governor Abercrombie, the Maui Board of Education member and my legislative colleges to put this project at the top of their 2013 CIP list.

The infrastructure cost will be approximately $25 million and can be funded with government obligation bonds.

With interest rates so low and Hawaii having such a good bond rating, this is the perfect time for bond funding.  These infrastructure improvements are what make this school so expensive.

Most EOE schools start with developed land not raw land and by providing infrastructure funding the resulting turnkey campus will be a smaller line item in the DOEs general fund budget.

It’s such an important project for Kihei, with our key partners and community behind us I know we’ll be successful. Imua, Kihei High School.

Question 3: One of the hotly contested issues this past legislative session involved Vacation Rental bills. What is your opinion and thoughts as we enter a new legislative session.

Vacation rental accommodations are a very important part of our visitor market. There are travelers who definitely prefer to stay in a condominium or a home, rather than a hotel.

In the past year concerns however were raised that many owners of vacation rental properties were not paying or were under-paying their Hawaii GE and TA taxes.

Also there was concern that many of them didn’t have a local contact to assist visitor clients in case of an emergency or natural disaster.

There was lots of misunderstanding about what the Legislature was trying to do with those bills.

Our purpose was twofold; provide consumer protection for the visitors to our islands by requiring a local contact and assist the (Hawaii) Department of Taxation to enforce state tax laws.

Vacation rental owners complaining the loudest weren’t even Hawaii residents and may not have been familiar with our laws and procedures.

This bill affects every vacation rental operator, Hawaii resident and non-resident alike. Here’s what it does; vacation rental operators must designate a local contact, disclose it in their rental contracts and keep the information current.

Operators must also display their tax registration ID in all advertisements. There are additional fines to compel compliance.

If the rental is part of a homeowners or condominium association, then the required information must be provided to the association who’s responsible for sending it to the (Hawaii) Department of Taxation.

Time share properties aren’t affected by the bill which takes effect July 1 2012 and sunsets December 31 2015, if not reenacted.

This gives the Legislature and the department an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach or determine if other actions are needed.

We know there are lots of law abiding tax paying operators of vacation rentals, but there are also some who willfully disregard the law or think it doesn’t apply to them.

This bill fosters compliance and allows visiting vacation renters to trust that they are dealing with legitimate business. Aloha.

Closing Thoughts:

Aloha, I’m Roz Baker, state senator running for election to the 6th Senate District representing South and West Maui. I appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts with you and humbly ask for your vote. You may visit my website at www.rozbaker.com. Aloha.

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