Baker, Amato to face off in Democratic Primary
WEST MAUI – Sixth District State Sen. Rosalyn Baker of Lahaina seeks re-election “to work on issues that affect each one of us.”
Her opponent in the Democratic Primary on Aug. 11, Terez Amato of Kihei, explained that she is running “to change the State Senate.”
“Maui deserves a new senator who is working for the people, not for the corporations and lobbyists who have hijacked our political system,” Amato added.
Green Party candidate Melissah Shishido of Kihei will battle the primary winner in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Amato and Baker faced off in the 2014 Democratic Primary, with incumbent Baker garnering 2,699 votes and Amato 2,213.
Baker for the past 16 years has represented the Sixth Senatorial District (Makena, Wailea, Kihei, Maalaea, Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua), and she wants “to continue to be the strong, progressive voice that not only understands the things that matter to Maui people but also gets results for our district.
“As chair of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee, I have championed and helped pass landmark legislation to improve access to quality healthcare, preserve the environment, provide better learning facilities and advocate for women and seniors,” she continued.
“Using my years of legislative experience and proven track record, I want to continue working with our Senate delegation to help make Maui and Hawaii a better place for all.”
Amato, who grew up on Maui and raised her four children here, said she is the only truly progressive candidate in this race.
“The people of Maui will always be assured that I’m working for them – not for special interests… I’m deeply honored that the Hawaii doctors, dentists, teachers and environmentalists – the people we trust with our lives – trust me, endorse me and choose me over my opponent,” Amato commented.
“We must retire the old corporate political ways and do what is best for our community, our kupuna, our children and environment – not just what insurance companies, developers and corporations mandate by donating to my opponent. That is why I refuse all corporate and lobbyists’ donations. I am working for the people, not corporations.
“Maui is not for sale. Hawaii does not belong to corporations. Our government must always serve the people. Together we must end the protection racket and remove corrupt politicians who are already in power. I am running for office to fight for your family’s future.”
Residents have told Amato that the key state-related issues this election season are protecting seniors and “fixing Maui’s broken hospital system;” working to fix overcrowded, dangerous roads; giving long overdue support to teachers and students; and protecting our jobs, environment and way of life.
Amato noted, “The health of people must come first; we must without further delay work to strengthen healthcare on Maui. Powerful insurance, medical corporations and drug lobbyists that donate to my opponent must no longer dictate what is best for patients or doctors. That is wrong. Maui deserves a new senator.
“Giant tax breaks and construction contracts in exchange for donations at the expense of our citizens cannot continue. It is time we put people first. If Maui can afford a questionable airport expansion and a new 5,000-car rental car garage that my opponent supported for industry, we can surely afford to have better hospitals and schools first!”
Sen. Baker said there are several issues relevant to West Maui residents, including roadway infrastructure: mitigating the effects of climate change on highways and making intersections safer.
“Because of rising sea levels, sections of Honoapiilani Highway need to be relocated away from the shoreline in many places, and the northern terminus of the Lahaina Bypass needs to be constructed with future climate threats in mind,” Baker explained.
“This past term, I worked hard to secure the necessary $40,000,000 to fund construction of the Lahaina Bypass going north. I want to continue to press for needed highway improvements, including completing the conversion to ‘smart’ intersections to make street crossings safer for pedestrians and vehicles alike,” she continued.
“Another issue deals with increasing affordable housing on the West Side. Recently, the governor signed one of my bills to help Front Street Apartments stay affordable, as well as to provide $30,000,000 for 200 new affordable rentals at the Villages of Leiali’i to be built in Lahaina by 2019. I want to keep that momentum moving forward.”
We asked the candidates how the state can more effectively address these issues.
Baker cited providing funding to rehabilitate public housing facilities and develop infrastructure projects to build more affordable housing and create jobs; continuing to allow Maui County to receive its share of the Transient Accommodations Tax; keeping policies in place to support renewable energy efforts and other technology industries, so that kama’aina can come back to Maui to work; and providing more education resources to every grade level and a highly qualified teacher in every classroom to help ensure the advancement of our students’ futures.
Amato’s solutions include lowering taxes for Maui residents while funding housing, roads, a new hospital and school improvements by being smart about revenue generation from nonresident investors and by dedicating a fraction of tourism hotel tax to these priorities.
She said hotels and nonresident investors have unreasonably low property taxes; this should be addressed at the state and county levels.
According to Amato, “One example is the recent $1.1 billion Grand Wailea hotel sale. The property is assessed and taxed at a third of its actual value.”
Revenues from fair taxation can fund the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System, improve medical care and reduce housing costs, she said.
“I support legalization of recreational marijuana for adults and taxing only nonresidents for its purchase. There are hundreds of millions at stake here. It is high time we stop overtaxing hardworking residents. Hawaii is missing the boat,” Amato said.
If re-elected, Baker’s top goal is to find ways to grow and diversify the economy.
“By encouraging sustainable business and supporting entrepreneurs, I believe this approach will help create more quality jobs and encourage the right kind of economic development. Overall, though, I fight for working families, to increase living wages and create safe, healthy workplaces,” she said.
“Improving education is another goal. Besides upgrading school facilities, I want to promote 21st century skillsets, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and healthcare, so our young people can get higher paying jobs and come home to live and thrive in Hawaii,” Baker continued.
“Finally, my goal is to build on my current initiatives to protect our environment. This includes preserving Lipoa Point in West Maui, protecting our coral reefs by banning sunscreens with harmful chemicals and providing pesticide-free buffer zones at our schools. I strongly believe we must become dedicated stewards of our islands and marine life or risk losing the spirit and specialness of Hawaii that define us all.”
If elected, Amato wants “to bring back the tax dollars created here in our hotels and given away to Oahu. Let’s reclaim the money we generate on Maui and use it here for roads, hospitals and affordable housing.”
Additional goals include canceling real estate investment trust (REIT) tax giveaways to giant corporations and ending “the cycle of broken promises” for a West Maui hospital and Kihei High School.
“My goal is to bring change and unprecedented transparency to the Senate. I will always refuse all corporate and lobbyist donations. I will put web cameras in my office – the secret backroom deals will end on my watch! It’s time for change – time for honesty, transparency and to put your families first. I am working for the people. I am working for you,” Amato said.
When asked why voters should choose her, Amato responded, “It’s time for change – time for real democracy, not an unethical protection racket. Maui deserves a senator who is working for the people, not corporations.
“We must stop government waste and gigantic tax breaks to giant real estate corporations like A&B – money that comes out of our pockets. For example, $36 million a year for 15 years was lost, because my opponent stalled the REIT Tax in her committee. Mega-corporations gave her $60,000 in donations to get re-elected, but it cost all of us all over $540 million we have to pay in taxes to make up the lost revenue. That is a real disservice to our community. It is time our residents came first.”
Sen. Baker pointed to her track record at the Hawaii Legislature.
“During my collective years in public office, I have demonstrated a strong, proven track record of getting results for our communities,” she said.
“I’m not afraid to tackle tough, complicated problems like increasing access to healthcare, women’s rights or affordable housing. I work collaboratively with my colleagues to pass laws that help small businesses succeed, provide jobs and protect our environment. I’m part of an effective Senate team that has Maui at heart and delivers.”
Amato, 42, listed her occupation as an advocate for the people of Hawaii. She completed some college coursework.
Her community resume includes serving as a member of the Sierra Club (former board member and treasurer), Kihei Community Association and Maui Farmers Union. She has volunteered for the Surfrider Foundation, Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership and West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership.
Amato has been endorsed by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Hawaii Medical Association Political Action Committee (PAC), Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution Hawaii, Hawaii Dental Association PAC, Healthcare For All Hawaii, Direct Democracy Hawaii, Sustainable Action Fund for the Environment, Pono Hawaii Initiative, Maui Pono Network and Sierra Club Hawaii.
To learn more about Amato and her campaign, visit www.TerezAmato.org.
Baker, 71, has been a full-time state senator representing West and South Maui since 2002. Prior to that, she was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1988, appointed to the State Senate in November 1993 and elected to the Senate from 1994 to 1998.
From 1999 to 2002, Baker worked as the economic development coordinator for the County of Maui. From 1980-87, as a small business owner on Maui, she also provided grant-writing services for several Maui non-profits.
Prior to moving to Maui, Baker worked in government relations for the National Education Association in Washington, D.C., and spearheaded the national effort to pass and ratify the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that lowered the voting age to 18.
Sen. Baker’s community involvement includes serving in the Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunrise (president in 2007-08 and current member); Maui Economic Development Board director; American Cancer Society Hawaii volunteer since 1984, former Hawaii-Pacific board chair and High Plains board member; Relay For Life team captainRotarians Walking for a Cure; Making Strides Against Breast Cancer volunteer/participant; organist and ukulele choir member of Lahaina United Methodist Church; and founder and co-chair of Maui Children and Youth Day held at Kihei Youth Center in October, now in its 12th year.
Her endorsements and supporters at press time (there are some pending) include the State AFL-CIO; Hawaii Firefighters Association, Local 1463; ILWU, Local 142; Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, General Contractors Association of Hawaii; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1186; Operating Engineers, Local 3; Hawaii Association of Public Accountants (HAPA) PAC; Planned Parenthood Votes, Northwest and Hawaii; Patsy T. Mink PAC; Hawaii Association of Realtors PAC; Hawaii Dental Hygienists Association; and Maui Hotel and Lodging Association.
To learn more about Sen. Baker and her campaign, visit www.RozBaker.com.