Rep. Gene Ward
Rep. Gene Ward
Rep. Gene Ward

Rep. Gene Ward – One of the easiest and most doable things to lower our cost of living in Hawaii is an esoteric act passed by Congress almost 100 years ago and is called by an innocuous name that makes people’s eyes glaze over when they hear it, i.e. “The Jones Act.”  This 1920 law makes the cost of shipping 4 to 5 times more expensive than it has to be because it eliminates any competition in our shipping industry between here and the mainland.

Exempting Hawaii from the Jones Act could lower our cost of living by 25%-35% by not requiring that ships delivering goods to Hawaii from the mainland to use ships built, owned, crewed, and flagged by Americans.  In other words, let the thousands of ships that dump their cargo on the West Coast and then bypass Hawaii empty, carry their goods to Hawaii on their way back to Asia at a fraction of the cost we now pay for this service – and we must import over 85% of everything we consume.

Lowering the cost of living in Hawaii is really that simple. Instead the people of Hawaii are paying thousands of dollars more per family to subsidize this act.  We need what the Congress gave to American Samoa, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands, who were given exemptions, but we have to ask for it first.

Opponents cite national defense and play the fear card on how this act protects us from not having to rely on foreign ships during a time of war.  What they fail to mention is that taking Hawaii out of the shipping equation will not weaken America’s defense poster and the biggest threat to Hawaii’s supply chain has always been shipping strikes, not wars.

The reality is that America is pretty much out of the maritime business with over 90% of our ship building facilities having been closed and the only new ships we produce are military vessels.   The bottom line is that the Jones Act still exists unmodified because of a quintessential lack of political will.  Our leaders know its downsides but have gotten away with not asking for an exemption because they know few people have heard of the act and even fewer understand what it is doing to them.  But times are changing and every time we pay $5 for a gallon of milk or gas, and then read our electrical bill, we know something has to be done.

As citizens awaken to how anti-Hawaii and damaging this law is, the cries of national defense will weaken and be seen as a disguise for the invisible hand that keeps taking an increasingly large portion of the food off the table of our poor and our senior citizens.

Representative Gene Ward, Ph.D., Minority Leader Emeritus, is a member of the House Finance Committee and Co-Chair of the Small Business Caucus and has worked as a small business expert with the United Nations International Labor Office.




  1. What's so funny, is that David Ige was the Senate Ways and Means Chairperson, responsible for the state fiscal budget, yet he doesn't know what The Jones Act is. Go figure.

  2. check out what Jeff Davis has to say about the Jones Act: "The Jones Act was passed in 1920 as a means of protecting our shipping industry by requiring ships sailing between US ports to be built and owned by US companies. The government has by and large removed protectionist laws from the books, but this one remains. As a result, people in Hawaii pay on average 30% more for imported goods than mainlanders. I propose to amend the Jones Act by excluding Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico from it’s provisions.

  3. Charles Djou agrees with you and Takai is for the union.There is a middle ground but is still on opposite sides. That is of the build requirement. We really need to reduce the cost of living or increase the buying power of the money that remains after the worst taxes for working families and middle class earners.
    The taxes are unfair as the source says about Hawaii this week. Added to the highest cost of living makes the lower income groups even less able to make a living. So go on welfare and not work? What do these lawmakers think that the people are stupid? Lazy? Well uninformed yes as you will not see the real story expanded on in any main media source like the paper or tv. Even Duke has come out for an exemption and Ige against. It must be one of the most under reported story in politics. A small story buried in the money section of the paper told of the unfair taxes. Poor are taxed at the checkout for food just like the well to do even though they are not buying expensive cuts of meat or mainland products. That is called a regressive tax as they are less able to absorb it in a budget of minimal nutrients and homes. Then there is gas power and retail.
    Obama says he will not give us a break, and local unions seem to want to stick it to their membership. Ask a hotel maid or union worker if they know about the act and they say no. Tell every one about it and how they could get 30% more for their money with out income taxes. Once the whole state is at a point of mass knowledge it will change they way we do politics, or not.

    • Republican state Sen. Sam Slom said Hawaii’s residents are overtaxed too. Esp. in land based transportation.
      KHON2 report titled; "Hawaii has worst highways in nation."
      The report by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, said Wednesday that Hawaii also has the least cost-effective highway system. It also ranked Hawaii among the worst for congestion, deficient bridges and pavement conditions.

      The group says Hawaii spent $90,000 on administrative costs for every mile of state road, expenses that could be siphoning money away from road repairs. By contrast, Texas spent less than $4,000 and Kentucky spent less than $1,000 per mile on office costs, according to the study
      .“It’s not a question of lack of revenues or lack of resources, but it is a question of how much we pay and how much we get for what we pay for,” Slom said. “I know we could be doing a much better job. But I think there’s a lack of oversight in terms of how the money’s doled out and what the results are.”
      More at;

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