Skip to content

How A Longtime Politician Turned The Chair Of The Home Finance Committee


Rep. Kyle Yamashita, who is understood for his quiet nature, is main some of the highly effective committees within the Legislature.

For 13 years, former Rep. Sylvia Luke managed the purse strings within the Home, grilling bureaucrats over their spending wants and by no means shying away from confrontation.

However Luke received her bid to grow to be lieutenant governor, handing off some of the highly effective positions within the Legislature.

The brand new head of the Home Finance Committee, Kyle Yamashita, brings a low-key method to the job throughout finances conferences with numerous departments. His soft-spoken tone de él usually retains him out of the limelight and he likes it that method, in accordance with his colleagues de él.

Rep. Kyle Yamashita took over as chair of the Home Finance Committee final month. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017)

The query is how that can serve him as he performs a essential function in deciding learn how to allocate funds whereas the state anticipates a $1.9 billion finances surplus.

He should navigate calls to extend reasonably priced housing, homeless companies, preschools, well being care and different difficult points. Yamashita additionally should work together with his extra outspoken Senate counterpart Donovan Dela Cruz to reconcile variations throughout convention committees.

Yamashita, 63, additionally assumes the management place amid considerations about transparency and requires reform after two senior Hawaii attorneys pleaded responsible to accepting bribes final 12 months.

Yamashita declined to be interviewed for this story, agreeing solely to submit solutions to questions despatched through e-mail.

“He does his homework, and he makes certain his choices are cheap.” —Lt.Gov. sylvia luke

Luke, who labored with Yamashita when he was vice chair on the finance committee, mentioned the Home is in good arms.

Yamashita turned vice chair after his predecessor, former Rep. Ty Cullen together with former Sen. J. Kalani English had been arrested for taking bribes in relation to laws relating to cesspools and wastewater administration.

“I’ve come to belief Kyle quite a bit,” Luke mentioned. “He does his homework from him, and he makes certain his choices from him are cheap, and his choices from him care for most of the people.”

Former state Rep. Joe Souki mentioned Yamashita at all times needed to chair the Home Finance Committee, though Souki did not choose him for the job throughout his reign as Home Speaker.

Souki mentioned Yamashita, who has been in workplace for almost twenty years, is low-key however harassed he is a tough employee and has institutional data like Luke.

Finance Chair Sylvia Luke is flanked by right, Senator Dela Cruz and left, Representative Kyle Yamashita during joint House and Senate budget conference committee meetings held at the Capitol.  Credit: Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022
Home Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita changed former chair Sylvia Luke. He’ll now be working with Senate Methods and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

Nevertheless, Souki mentioned it will likely be fascinating to see how Yamashita’s quiet nature will fare with Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Methods and Means Committee.

“That may be fascinating to have somebody fairly bombastic and aggressive versus somebody who may be very quiet,” Souki mentioned. “However with quiet comes power. So I believe he’ll do job.”

Maui County

Dela Cruz is not apprehensive, saying he had working relationship with Luke and has no drawback working with Yamashita.

“He is deliberate and has nice depth,” Dela Cruz mentioned. “He is been engaged on the capital enchancment finances for not less than a decade, and he understands how state departments work already.”

Though Yamashita is new to the management place, he brings about 15 years of expertise main the capital enchancment initiatives subcommittee.

“He isn’t a rookie,” Rep. John Mizuno mentioned. “All of us help him. We predict he’ll do nice issues for us. However as Home finance chair, you have to have the flexibility to say no, and he’ll try this. It’s essential since you do not wish to bankrupt the state.”

From Businessman To Politician

The Maui resident is the third-longest serving lawyer within the Home. However he began out as a small-business proprietor with a number of retail shops on the Valley Isle.

Yamashita grew up in Aiea on Oahu. the oldest of two siblings. He moved to Maui about 33 years in the past and has two youngsters together with his spouse, Karen.

He started his political profession as a legislative staffer for the late Rep. Bob Nakasone. Each weekday morning, Yamashita would catch the primary flight to Honolulu then return to complete up work at his Kahalui enterprise, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.

Yamashita first ran for workplace in 2002 towards incumbent Republican Rep. Kika Bukoski in a bid to win the seat that represented Pukalani, Makawao, Olinda, Pulehu, Kula and Ulupalakua again for the Democrats.

Yamashita misplaced that election however ran once more in 2004, profitable greater than half the statewide votes.

Yamashita was assigned to the capital enchancment initiatives subcommittee in 2009, changing his former boss Nakasone who died the earlier 12 months.

Rep. Troy Hashimoto, who chairs the Home Housing Committee, mentioned he grew up in Yamashita’s district and first met the lawyer when he was a senior in highschool and a pupil member on the Board of Schooling.

Hashimoto described his Maui colleague as quiet however efficient.

“He delivers and has been behind these initiatives that we have seen statewide, however you simply do not know he is behind it. He likes to maintain it that method,” Hashimoto mentioned.

Giving Again To The Neighborhood

As head of the capital enchancment initiatives subcommittee within the Home Finance Committee, Yamashita weighed in on the place the Legislature ought to allocate cash to construct or renovate public amenities within the state.

He secured funding for constructing initiatives at faculties and different public amenities, particularly in his district. He was certainly one of a number of Maui attorneys to acquire $172 million for numerous initiatives in Maui, together with increasing and enhancing Kahului Harbor and constructing and renovating elementary and excessive faculties.

Yamashita additionally secured $35 million to construct the Kekaulike Excessive College Performing Arts Heart.

Jan Gouveia, vp of administration on the College of Hawaii, praised Yamashita and the opposite finance committee members. UH had finances briefings with the Home Finance Committee chaired by Yamashita final week that Gouveia mentioned went nicely.

“He is at all times been attempting to determine a method to enhance our antiquated procurement course of and reaches out to numerous stakeholders,” Gouveia mentioned, including that the college has at all times had a “robust and respectful relationship with Kyle and his whole workers.”

In accordance with Yamashita’s monetary document, he and his spouse every make not less than $50,000 however lower than $100,000. Yamashita’s solely occupation is as a lawyer, whereas his spouse works at Aloha Petroleum Ltd.

Demonstrators stand in the Capitol rotunda in opposition to HB2501 with Hawaiian flag.  12 April 2016. Credit: Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016
Demonstrators rally towards water diversions in 2016, a problem that nearly value Yamashita an election. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016)

The Democratic lawyer has supported many payments relating to tax insurance policies and infrastructure.

shut name

However one controversial invoice nearly value him re-election in 2016, when he confronted his hardest race towards challenger Tiare Lawrence, an environmentalist who protested the development of Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea and stream diversions by Alexander and Baldwin.

Lawrence ran towards Yamashita as a result of he supported a invoice that handed the Legislature that 12 months, permitting Alexander and Baldwin to proceed diverting water from streams in East Maui regardless of a courtroom ruling invalidating the corporate’s state permits.

Yamashita barely beat Lawrence with 352 extra votes.

“That was the closest he is come to dropping his seat in a very long time,” mentioned Colin Moore, director of the Public Coverage Heart on the College of Hawaii Manoa. “For an incumbent legislator in Hawaii, it was closed.”

Moore mentioned Yamashita is an “common Democrat” who’s backed by the tourism and labor trade in addition to agricultural pursuits.

“He is pro-union, pro-business, and comparatively pleasant to tourism,” Moore mentioned. “To be trustworthy, he suits the profile of somebody who would get a place like this as a result of you’ll be able to’t be too far out ideologically and find yourself being chair of the Home Finance Committee.”

Moore mentioned he senses that Yamashita is any individual folks can belief to be truthful and listener.

“He is a low-profile legislator. He is by no means within the information that a lot,” Moore mentioned. “However should you’re speaking a couple of place for Home finance, typically you need any individual who’s fairly lowkey.”

Civil Beat’s protection of Maui County is supported partially by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Basis and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Basis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *