Reason: Former Gov. Ben Cayetano on Hawaii’s Fiscal Mess and Stupid Rail Plan

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Former Gov. Ben Cayetano

“When the special interests become too powerful,” warns Ben Cayetano, “the voter only has the collective conscience of the people who are in public office.”

Cayetano was a popular two-term Democratic governor of the state of Hawaii who held office from 1994 to 2002. In 2012, Cayetano became alarmed by what he saw as out-of-control spending and special interests run amok. He came out of retirement and made a failed bid to become the mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii’s largest city.


Cayetano opposed the city’s $5.26 billion rail project, which he says costs too much and will not address Honolulu’s traffic problems. The massive system and inevitable cost overruns, he fears, simply piles more debt on a government already straining under unfunded liabilities for public-sector pensions and benefits. “They are going to end up raising taxes,” Cayetano told Reason TV. “Or the city will go bankrupt.”

In a wide-ranging conversation, the 73-year-old Filipino American discusses the Aloha State’s fiscal mess, the trouble with Hawaii’s one-party government, and why he believes social issues are distracting voters from more pressing economic problems.





  1. A rail system that by-passes the states largest employer will be a great boon the few that just happened to buy and own land in the path of the rail. The rest of us regular folk will be stuck in traffic watching an expensive empty train go by.

  2. I agree. I moved away 20 years ago and miss the surf and the food but not the Hawaii politics. The Old Boy Network and political cronies will benefit but there will be very minimal impact on traffic. Normally I would write this off as being a Hawaii problem but with the $1.5 billion Federal Transportation Administration subsidy, Honolulu's rail project is now a national issue with the tax money of people who do not even live in Hawaii such as myself funding a project that will benefit Hawaii political insiders but will not address the traffic issue the rail authorities claim it will solve.

  3. Finn, I am glad to read your comments. Unfortunately, the people of Hawaii have been hoodwinked by the high-priced PR firm who smeared Ben and is backed by the unions, politicians and BIG businesses who stand to make a profit when this "rail to nowhere" is completed.

    On another note, I didn't you live in Manoa and belong to the Noelani B.S. troop back in the late '70's?

    • Hi Mrs. Sato. Yes – I was in Troop 35 with Darin! 🙂 We were very fortunate to have Scout Masters like Mr. Otaguro and Mr. Uyeunten as well as parent volunteers such as yourself to make our experience in Boy Scouts exceptional and with happy memories. I think we went camping once a month and I still remember the time we climbed Mauna Loa. As a parent I now fully understand how much work it is to help run a volunteer organization – thank you for everything you did for the Troop! 🙂

  4. I agree totally with Ben and campaigned, attended public meetings, watched the polls as Ben consistantly out ran Caldwell, and then on election night I cried and was absolutely disgusted with Hawaii politics. I saw corruption at its worse with big money, big labor, big special interest groups laughing all the way to the bank with our money! To make matters worse was to run out of ballots in the biggest and most important election in the history of Hawaii…and nobody needs to answer, no job loss, nothing! How is that? So now we have the big Federal cuts and jobs disappearing…whose is going to pay for rail now and how? Since Abercombie wants to give away 20 mil to help small businesses start up now is the time for me to make my dreams come true…I can buy my shave ice truck with your money! And it only gets worse! We just got 17 mil in disaster relief to fix our roads…that's an appropriate term caused by the storm of chronic neglect! They use to sugar coat bad news and now you have to pay if you eat the sugar!

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