LIHUE — KipuKai Kuali’i believes Kauai County has a spending problem.
That’s why, if re-elected to the County Council, Kuali’i promises to look for ways that will promote government efficiency and financial responsibility.
“My No. 1 job as a council member is to dig deep into our budget and question. One of my goals or motivations is to help inspire active budgetary participation by our citizens and taxpayers,” he said. “The people deserve nothing less.”
The numbers speak for themselves, Kuali’i said.
From 2005 to 2016, the general budget went from $80 million to $126 million, the number of full-time county employees went from 1,042 to 1,292, and the total primary government expenses went from $127 million to $194 million, Kuali’i said.
“So far, our administration and our council have been either unwilling or unable to come up with the significant cost savings required for true government efficiency and fiscal responsibility,” he said. “It was evident in the recent budget deliberations and decision-making, as well as the discussions on the narrowly defeated newly proposed General Excise Tax and the $100 million road repairs backlog, that this administration and some on our council believe the solution to our budget challenges is to increase revenues and even increase taxes.”
In May, the council voted 4 to 3 against raising the GET by a quarter of a percent. Supporters of the tax hike say it was needed to pay for $100 million of road repair projects.
Raising taxes isn’t the answer, Kuali’i said. Rather, it’s about limiting expenditures and initiating other cost-saving measures.
“My primary idea or proposal to change things is to keep questioning, challenging and highlighting what’s been happening,” he said. “If enough of our people engage with me on this, and even elect others with the same fiscal mindset, we can and will make a difference.”
If elected to serve another term, Kuali’i, 54, pledges to push for measures that will make the administration and council accountable.
“It’s my fervent hope that the voters will elect a council super-majority of five that’s fully committed to fiscal accountability, cost savings (budget cuts) and that’s willing to stand up to our administration’s ever-increasing spending,” he said.
Kuali’i believes the lack of a super-majority was cause for the council to pass more than $100,000 in pay raises for county employees and the reason why a proposed charter amendment to create a County Road Resurfacing/Reconstruction Backlog Fund was killed.
Born in Puhi, Kuali’i graduated from the Kamehameha Schools and the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he received a degree in business administration. He also has over 20 years experience in government, labor and non-profit organizations, from director of operations at YWCA of Kauai to accounting clerk at the City of West Hollywood. He now lives in Anahloa.
Kuali’i, who is seeking his third term on the council, also believes the county needs to do more to support Kauai’s farmers.
“Our local culture sustenance lifestyles of fishing, gathering and hunting continue to get passed down from generation to generation,” he said. “Many are turning to backyard and container gardening, hydroponics, raising egg-layer chickens and aquaculture to grow more and more of their food.”
The county can promote the sustenance lifestyle on the island by not passing laws that get in their way, and stopping the state and federal government from doing the same, Kuali’i said.
“The county can also support these lifestyles by maintaining and restoring traditional public access, and by doing whatever it takes to protect our lands, waters and resources, our aina,” he said.