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Monday, February 13, 2017
February 13, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:42 PM :: 3179 Views

SB1183: Rail Tax Hike Bill is Alive in Legislature

SA: …Inouye’s and Nishihara’s committees still haven’t voted on SB 1183. A new draft with a bevy of changes is slated for release today, and a public hearing on the rail-tax measure is scheduled for Wednesday.

Some of the amendments they’re considering include:

>> Extending the GET surcharge another five years to 2032, instead of extending it in perpetuity.

>> Giving neighbor counties another chance to adopt the 0.5 percent GET surcharge, as Oahu did more than a decade ago. (No other county has done this in previous opportunities.) The surcharge wouldn’t include the state’s 10 percent skim. An “unspecified percentage” — likely about 25 percent, according to Inouye — would go into the state’s highway fund.

No Oahu surcharge proceeds would go to counties that decide not to adopt their own surcharge.

An income tax credit would be available for state residents whose income falls below federal poverty guidelines.

The city would have to create a bus-rapid transit lane connecting Central Oahu to the rail system’s Pearl Highlands transit center and create a secondary access road into Leeward Community College.

Senators are also discussing using surcharge funds to support the state’s education, affordable housing and senior care needs, Inouye said.

The Senate committees still aim to replace the state’s 10 percent skim of Oahu’s rail surcharge with an undetermined dollar amount that reflects the actual costs to administer that tax, Inouye said last week.

A five-year extension of the GET for rail granted in 2015 should give the project an additional $1.5 billion, according to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. Therefore, another five-year extension of the tax likely would not be enough on its own to fill the project’s current budget hole.

Additionally, the Senate is mulling increases to the fuel tax, vehicle weight tax and vehicle registration fees to help fund state road projects….

Senate President Ron Kouchi (D, Kauai-Niihau) asked Inouye and Nishihara to keep that language in the bill….

The Legislature rejected a similar proposal last year….

read … Plan to give state more rail funds lives

How Ige Plans To Cut a Piddling $220 Million From His $28.5B Budget

CB: Hawaii Gov. David Ige has proposed across-the-board cuts to his $28.5 billion spending plan for the next two years due to tax revenues coming in lower than expected….

(Hard times—Budget only $28.3B.)

Ige laid out the changes, roughly $220 million in total cuts, in a letter to state lawmakers last week. The Legislature will be working to finalize the biennium budget by May.

On Jan. 4, the state Council on Revenues dropped its general fund growth forecast for fiscal year 2017, which ends June 30, to 3 percent from 5.5 percent after learning that tax collections for the first five months of the fiscal year came in at 0.7 percent.

PDF: letter to state lawmakers 

read … How Ige Plans To Cut $220 Million From His Budget

DoE fails to fix problems with its 17,000 casual employees

SA: …The audit said the poor oversight exposes the department to several risks, including the possibility of employees with criminal histories working for the DOE; unauthorized hiring of casual hires; fictitious hours being paid to a casual-hire employee; and violation of federal employment laws….

In addition to its 22,000 salaried employees, the DOE employed more than 17,000 casual workers last school year, including part-time teachers and substitutes, paraprofessional tutors, classroom cleaners, meal count assistants and high school athletic coaches. Casual hire employees, who are recruited and hired at the school level, are terminated at the end of each fiscal year….

The review found, for example, some schools are allowing casual hires to start working before a required background check by the DOE’s central human resources office is completed. Of the 17,145 casual hires employed last school year, 1,873 workers, representing 11 percent of hires, had begun working at schools before receiving clearance, the auditors found.

The report also found instances in which hours recorded in the DOE’s casual payroll system did not match hours recorded on a respective casual hire’s time sheet.

The auditors selected for their follow-up review a sample size of 150 casual employees to retest payroll processes at schools. The analysis covered 299 pay periods and 2,476 workdays, and found 104 discrepancies between the hours recorded in the payroll system and employee time sheets. This resulted in an overpayment of 165 hours, the report said.

The audit found schools are able to enter into the payroll system work hours for days prior to an employee’s hire date and after their termination date; enter hours on prior pay periods as far back as the previous year; and enter hours that exceed the maximum hours allowed per week for part-time employees.  

Casual Hires: It goes to the Top: Ige Education Policy Based on Underage Drinking and Football Recruiting Trips

read … Schools fail to fix problems with casual employees

The Impending Honolulu Rail Ridership Debacle

CB: …HART should prepare for a scenario in which actual ridership, or the number of passengers actually using rail, falls short of forecasted estimates. — City Auditor’s Report

The City has grossly overestimated the ridership forecast for Honolulu rail. As demonstrated below, actual ridership is likely to be less than half the City’s forecast of 116,300.

Honolulu has had three environmental impact statements for transportation in the last 20 years. Each time the city forecasts a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in future bus ridership, yet each time the actual ridership has subsequently declined. State Data Book, (table 18.25). The FTA is fully aware of this.

The forecast for Honolulu public transportation ridership is based on the fallacy that ridership increases with population. That has never been the case either nationally or locally. In Honolulu, for example, while population growth over the past 30 years has increased by 25 percent, bus ridership has declined 11 percent. The peak year for transit use was 1986. State Data Book, (tables 18.25 & 1.06) ….

The Final EIS forecasts for Honolulu rail and San Juan (which is the only other elevated rail system to be built in recent years) are remarkably similar: 116,300 and 114,492 daily riders respectively. Actual ridership for San Juan turned out to be only 27,567 daily, which was 76 percent less than what had been projected. San Juan’s combined bus and rail ridership declined from 32.6 million the year before rail opened to 26.4 million two years after, and it never recovered. Parsons Brinckerhoff who prepared the Honolulu ridership projection also prepared San Juan’s….

read … Debacle

Bill to make judges repeat confirmation is advanced

SA: …For the past two years lawmakers have considered proposals for a constitutional amendment that would require that sitting judges win the consent of the Senate before they can remain on the bench after their initial terms.

That idea has been almost universally rejected by the Hawaii legal community. Opponents testified Wednesday at a hearing by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor that reconfirmation hearings would inject politics into the judicial process.

Senate Bill 673 proposing the constitutional amendment on judges’ retention was approved by the Judiciary Committee in a 3-2 vote Wednesday, with Judiciary Chairman Gil Keith-Agaran and Sens. Karl Rhoads and Donna Mercado Kim voting in favor of the bill, and Sens. Laura Thielen and Mike Gabbard voting against it.

The measure now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further consideration. If it is approved by the Legislature, the voters would be asked during the 2018 election whether they approve of the constitutional amendment requiring reconfirmation.

Some opponents expressed worry that judges might feel pressured to change their rulings on controversial cases if they knew their reconfirmations would be put to a Senate vote….

read … Bill to make judges repeat confirmation is advanced

Chemophobia: Legislators Advance Polystyrene Ban

SA: …Representatives of the Surfrider Foundation, Kokua Foundation, Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii, Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, Young Americans for Progressive Action and student clubs of regional high schools (usual suspects) voiced support of the ban (because these former tree-huggers now like chopping down trees to make paper plates).

K. Yamada Distributors, a company that specializes in packaging and shipping, voiced its opposition to the bill, explaining that SB 1109 would lead to job loss and that businesses should have the freedom to choose which materials to use.

Former owner of Styrophobia, Ari Patz, who is now Hawaii and Pacific regional manager for World Centric, said he is against the use of polystyrene but doesn’t want it to be banned. “I want to educate everybody to the point where legislation isn’t needed. That is my desire for any change. Let’s educate people and allow them to make decisions.”

Hawaii is one of the biggest consumers of polystyrene containers in the United States, with the average resident consuming roughly 100 plate lunches per year, according to Patz.  (And we can force them to participate in the eco-religion by banning them.)

Foam has been identified as a main contributor to waste accumulation (H Power?  Hello?), along with plastic bags, according to testimony given by Rafael Bergstrom of the Surfrider Foundation (who will say anything).

SA: Committee defers bill on plastic bags

read … Hype and Hysteria

Politics is About Winning

KGI: … Akina, who defeated long-time incumbent Haunani Apoliono by a margin of 163,743-156,193 in the general election to become OHA at-large trustee, emphasized several rules the GOP ought to adopt to win the hearts of voters.

If you’re going to win in Hawaii, it’s about uniting, and not dividing, he said.

“If I were only speaking to my colleagues who were conservatives … I would be held to a narrow message, and I would never have been able to find that one spot that united people,” he said.

Winning is about leading and not complaining, Akina told the crowd.

“The problem is as much as it is necessary to critique and criticize and attack, if that’s all you do, people know what you stand against, and they don’t know what you stand for,” he said.

Another, he added, is for the GOP to focus on everyone and not themselves.

“There’s not nothing wrong with modalities. I belong to several modalities,” he said. “Should our party be a modality? A modality is a social movement that transforms the world. We don’t lose elections as Republicans because the Democrats rigged the system. That simply is not true.”

Focusing on candidates, rather than the party, he said, is another tactic.

“When you find someone who you believe will be a great candidate, do everything you can to woo, support to recruit and list that candidate,” he said.

Winning small battles leads to winning bigger ones, pointed out Akina.

“I talk to a lot of young conservatives. They’re idealistic. They want to see a better world. They go after big goals,” he said. “Until we get into office and start getting something — little gains — we won’t get the big gains.”

Akina ended his speech by having members of the crowd repeat his rules aloud.

“We can’t win if we remain disconnected with the rest of the population,” he said. “I want to ask many of you to join me, as candidates yourselves, or by encouraging candidates out there to run to make Hawaii great again — to make America great again.” ….

read … 90 attend GOP Lincoln Day Dinner

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