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Tuesday, December 30, 2014
December 30, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:53 PM :: 3820 Views

VIDEO: Republican Rep Aaron Johanson Switches to Democrat

DBEDT: Social, Business and Economic Trends in Hawaii 1990-2013

Lava and Pahoa: Looking Back at 2014

162 Candidates File for Neighborhood Board Elections

UH official offers three solutions to Cancer Center‚Äč financial crisis Without Tax Hike

PBN: Garner revenue from the state tobacco settlement: Bond debt for the cancer center's neighbor, the 10-year-old John A. Burns School of Medicine, is covered by a 26 percent share of the state tobacco settlement special fund. Syrmos says this tobacco settlement would be a much more stable source of funding for the Center, which currently relies on a tobacco tax allocation for some of its income. The center's share of the tobacco tax provided $14 million last year, compared to nearly $20 million in 2010. Syrmos predicts the tobacco tax allocation will shrink to about $12.5 million in fiscal year 2015.

Unlike the tobacco tax, money from the 1998 class-action settlement with the tobacco industry will not be unstable or rely on how many people are smoking, Syrmos said. The endowment is to benefit Hawaii and approximately 40 other states in payments in perpetuity. It is not a tax, but a trust fund, he said. The cancer center will likely ask for about 20 percent of the settlement, or $8 million a year, to cover its mortgage until 2040.

Initiate collaboration between the medical school and UH Cancer Center to cut costs ... Increase clinical trials through new hires....

Related: Eight Tax Hikes Proposed for Hawaii

read ... No New Taxes

Will Ag Board Finally Eliminate Failed Milk Price Control Policy?

CB: There are only two dairies currently operating in Hawaii, where an estimated 90 percent of food is imported. The Milk Act, which regulates the price of milk and how much is produced, was passed in 1967 when fierce competition among dozens of dairies in the state sparked calls for a price floor. For milk processed on the Big Island where both dairies are located, that’s $3.06 per gallon....

Since then, Hawaii’s milk industry has shrunk considerably and only one distributor remains: Meadow Gold Dairies, which has been distributing milk in Hawaii since 1897. 

Summary: Price Controls reduced the number of dairies from 'dozens' to 'two.'  Any questions?

SA: Meadow Gold pushes state ag board to lift limits on milk prices

read ... From Dozens to Two

Rising property taxes a concern for Oahu home owners

KHON:  No one on the island escaped the hike in residential property assessments. The largest increase occurred in Leeward Oahu with a 11 percent jump, followed by the North Shore at 8.6, and Urban Honolulu at 8.3.

The other zones also saw an increase in property values, with Windward Oahu being the least at 3.9 percent.

What residents are bracing for is the other shoe to drop, because the actual meaning of the increased home value depends on the City Council.

KHON2 asked key Council members if they will also hike property tax rates, now set at $3.50 per $1,000 in assessed value.

“We don’t plan on raising taxes,” Kobayahsi said. “Everyone’s having a hard time.”

KHON2 also asked Martin if there was any chance that there will be property tax relief. “You know, I would take a look at it,” he said. “I cannot commit for the rest of the members.” ...

The Council will take another look at that new controversial tax classification “A” that imposes higher taxes on second homes and investment properties valued at a million dollars or more — homes that may also be rentals.

“And if assessments goes so high that even the smaller homes are now worth a million dollars? We’re going to have to look at should we raise that threshold to protect renters,” said Kobayashi....

The deadline for appeals is January 15. For more information, visit www.realpropertyhonolulu.com.

read ... Taxes Going Up

Got a $700M Shortfall? Set the Cycle to ‘Spin’

CB: Honolulu officials did everything they could to sugarcoat projections that the city's $5.2 billion rail project could go over budget by as much as 15 percent....

what stuck out most about Grabauskas’ presentation — aside from the alarming dollar figures — was the way in which he and the board members attempted to downplay the severity of the news while at the same time congratulating one another for being so transparent about the situation....

“The goal of this presentation really is transparency,” Grabauskas said, just before launching into the grim projections that also included a pitch to extend the .05 percent rail surcharge on the general excise tax....

read ... Spin Cycle

Hawaii Health Connector Wants $2.5 Million from State

CB: Hawaii Health Connector CEO Jeff Kissell, who just took over the state-created nonprofit in October, told a legislative oversight committee Monday that the state appropriation should be viewed as an investment that will produce $500 million in federal tax subsidies within the next decade....

the break-even point no longer requires having 100,000 people enrolled, he said. As the Health Connector’s operations have improved, that number has been lowered to an estimated 50,000 to 70,000....  (He sure likes playing with numbers, doesn't he?)

He sees an estimated 50,000 students in Hawaii who are eligible for coverage. (What happened to the Micronesians?) And he hopes to convince lawmakers to change the definition of “small business” from fewer than 50 employees to 51-100 workers....

His proposed state budget for the next two years did not include funding for the insurance exchange, but he left open the possibility that he would request funding during the session, which starts Jan. 21....

Kissell said the Connector plans to increase its revenue by upping the fees on premiums from the current 2 percent to 3.5 percent in 2016.

A more detailed report is expected from the Connector in January....

read ... More Wasted Money

Ige Budget Proposes Reduced GO Bond Issuance

BB: Hawaii's draft $25.7 billion draft budget for the biennium contains plans to reduce general obligation bond obligation issuance by half compared to amounts pushed out over the past three years.

read ... The Bond Buyer

Senator to call on feds to examine 'Fixed Fees' for electric service

AP: Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review CL&P and UI's fixed charge hike and to establish a clear national policy to ensure that electric rates promote federal energy efficiency goals.

Connecticut regulators recently gave a rate hike final approval. CL&P's service charge will increase from $16 to just over $19 per month. Overall, the average customer will see a $7.12 increase....

In the past, fixed charges have been $5 to $10 per month.

Blumenthal said the charges are increasing nationwide....

Idaho Power is increasing its fixed charge from $5 to $20. In Hawaii, its power company is trying to get a $55 fixed monthly charge, which is double its current fee.

read ... Fixed Fee Hikes

Tourism Industry Behind Water Grab on Big Isle, Kauai 

KE: Now that Vandana Shiva and Center for Food Safety have declared 2015 the “year of home rule” — by which they mean blindly following the directives of folks based in India and Washington, D.C. — we're going to see that catch phrase popping up in all sorts of unlikely places.

Like water use. Or more specifically, calls to designate Lihue and the Keauhou area of the Big Island as ground water management areas.

Somehow, both actions are being hailed as “home rule,” when in reality, they're taking control of water resources out of county hands, and giving it to the state Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM).

Unfortunately, ill-informed activists don't have a clue what's going down, as evidenced by their fawning response to Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi's testimony at a Dec. 10 meeting of CWRM.

Billy was clearly speaking against a petition by the National Parks Service to designate the Keauhou Aquifer System Area in North Kona a Ground Water Management Area ....

Yet misguided folks like Dustin Barca and his followers somehow came to believe that Billy was speaking in favor of the ground water management area, and that such a designation is a good thing, in terms of “home rule.” Nor did they seem to realize that Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. is on the same page as Billy on this issue....

Can people really be this ignorant, this misinformed?

Sadly, the answer is yes. Which is why they're so easily manipulated, just as they were with the GMO/pesticide issue.

A water management designation wouldn't stop Grove Farm from selling vast swaths of land to billionaires, as happened at Kipu Kai, or developing ag land into upscale gentleman's estates.

However, it could stymie plans to build low-to-middle income housing in the area between Hanamaulu and Lihue.

And once again, like in the GMO fight, we see this curious alliance between environmentalists and the tourism industry. According to the West Hawaii petition (emphasis added):

“Waters that support fisheries, tourism, subsistence, and cultural heritage are at risk.”

WTF? Since when have tourism, subsistence, and cultural heritage been compatible? And why is tourism a top priority for water use, right up there with subsistence and cultural heritage?

read ... Musings: Home Overruled

Competence no Longer to be Required for Hawaii County Employment

HTH:  Individuals will no longer have to provide “competent, efficient, loyal and ethical service to the public” to qualify for employment with Hawaii County. Instead, people will be hired based on their “fitness and ability for public employment,” and be retained based on their “demonstrated appropriate conduct and productive performance.”

The county Department of Civil Service will officially be known as the Department of Human Resources.

These are just two of the proposed rule changes that will be the subject of a public hearing at 3 p.m. today, as the department updates its rules to comply with changes in state and county laws.

read ... Public hearing today on updated HR rules

Psych Exam for Waikiki Homosexual Who Allegedly Chopped up Boyfriend

SA: An indictment against Suitt charges him with killing Gonzales between Aug. 17 and mid-September 2013.  (Unsurprisingly, the Star-Adv assiduously avoids mentioning they were gay lovers.)

Information Honolulu police discovered during their investigation suggests that Gonzales died in early September.

Police recovered the victim's remains scattered off both sides of Mililani Memorial Park Road on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, 2013....

read ... Gay Murder

Judiciary Suddenly Gets 'Tough on Crime'

MN: ...On Dec. 4, 2013, Maielua saw the victim thief trying to steal liquor from Times Supermarket in Honokowai and getting into a fight with the store manager, who had to tackle the victim thief to the ground. Shortly afterward, Maielua saw the victim thief hiding a liquor bottle in his clothing at the nearby ABC Store.

"The defendant made the decision to stop the crime by striking the victim thief with a single punch, which did cause extensive facial fracturing," said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas.

He said that when Maielua later turned himself in to police, he said he "threw one punch in an attempt to neutralize the victim thief."

Originally charged with felony second-degree assault, Maielua pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree assault....

read ... ‘Taking action’ costs man community service

Engineer with State Dept. of Transportation accused of stealing from elderly

HNN: 62-year old Rodney Tominaga is an engineer with the State Department of Transportation.

But he is now an accused thief for allegedly trying to steal tens of thousands of dollars from elderly women.

Tominaga is suspected of being part of a phone scam. Court documents say one of his victims is a 90-year old woman on the mainland.

Police sources say there is at least one other victim in Hawaii. Tominaga was arrested but not charged in that second case.

The elderly victims were called and told they had won millions, but first needed to send some money.  Police say the money was sent to him....

read ... Stealing

City Repaves 305 Lane-Miles of Roads

SA: Paving crews fixed 305 lane-miles of crumbling, degraded city-owned streets across Oahu in 2014, according to end-of-year data provided by city officials.

That tally, part of a Design and Construction Department report, keeps the crews on course to repave some 1,500 lane miles of the island's worst city roads during a five-year period. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell first set that goal in January 2013.

read ... 305 lane miles

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