Jobs and Economy
Find out more about my views on the economy.
The challenge facing our economy today is fostering the responsible growth needed to create jobs and put Americans back to work.
As we emerge from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, it is crucial that we promote transparency and continue to reform our financial system to create and maintain consumer confidence while discouraging the negligent behavior that got us here in the first place.
At the federal level we can help create jobs by funding infrastructure and transportation projects, investing in education, and funding innovative research and development.
With tourism being our biggest industry, we must be sensitive to the movements of the world economy and adjust our strategies accordingly.
But if the economic downturn has taught us anything, it is that we must fortify our existing industries while working hard to build up promising sectors like renewable energy and agriculture.
We must also strive to secure international investment from the global economy. Given our location in the Pacific Rim, our close proximity to Asia and our thriving immigrant communities we are uniquely positioned to attract international business.
By hosting prestigious international forums like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), we draw the spotlight to our islands and ensure that Hawaii is seen as not just a premier visitor destination, but also a place primed for business.
In these difficult times we have to make sure we monitor spending and allocate taxpayer resources responsibly. Government should be spending the people’s money on job creating projects and initiatives that improve the quality of life for our citizens.
We must protect important social initiatives that help create and preserve jobs like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.
As I have done throughout my career in public service, I will lead aggressive initiatives to build up and improve Hawaii’s public school system while easing access to a quality, affordable college education. Investing in the education of our youth is among the greatest economic investments we can make. The potential returns are immeasurable.
Our young people must be inspired and adequately prepared to innovate and drive Hawaii’s economy into the future.
All of these efforts are imperative to keep Hawaii and the nation competitive in the global marketplace.
TRAVEL AND TOURISM
Hawaii enjoys unparalleled natural beauty that attracts visitors from across the world. In 2011, 7.28 million visitors came to Hawaii, a 3.8% increase from 2010, and visitor spending was up 15.6% to $12.58 billion. The tourist dollars spent in our hotels, restaurants and small businesses constitute as much as 40% of the state’s economy. In Congress I will continue to advocate for policies that will attract new markets to Hawaii.
In November, 2011, I sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees asking for changes in consular staffing to address delays in visa applications, saying, "The demand for U.S. visas in key emerging economies such as China and Brazil is not being met appropriately with current State Department resources.” These individuals wanting to visit the United States but needing to get visa approval have faced significant delays due to interview requirements that have led to wait times in Rio de Janeiro averaging 80 days.
I applaud President Obama for understanding the need for an enhanced visa application process, and I was greatly encouraged by the President’s January 2012 announcement that he would sign an Executive Order and undertake new initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in the United States. This includes plans by the Administration to speed up the visa process for foreign travelers, focusing on such countries as China and Brazil. With these efforts underway, Hawaii is positioned to be a major beneficiary of the Administration’s travel and tourism policies. Countries like China, Brazil and India represent growing opportunities for Hawaii tourism. In the first 11 months of 2011, arrivals from China grew 28.1% over the same period the year prior; I believe we can do still better. By 2016, outbound travel from China is expected to grow by 135%, from Brazil by 274% and India by 50%.
Finally, our state is uniquely dependent on air transportation to allow our residents and visitors to travel between the islands. That is why I sent letters to House and Senate leaders opposing any increases to the Aviation Passenger Security Fee or the proposal to impose a $100 per departure surcharge. These additional fees disproportionately impact those traveling between the Hawaiian Islands and who have no choice but to rely on air travel for transportation.
For more information concerning my work and views on the issues of Jobs and Economy, please contact my Washington, DC office.
I look forward to your feedback.
See also information on resources for businesses.