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Thursday, February 23, 2017
February 23, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:34 PM :: 4154 Views

Why OHA Fears a Forensic Audit

DLNR Still Paying Rapist Cop—Claims HGEA President Had Nothing to do with Hiring

DLNR Introduces Birth Control for Mosquitoes

HART Ridership Projections - Fantasies, Fairytales and Alternative Facts

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted February 23, 2017

GE Tax Hike Grabs Another $800/year from family finances

KHON: SB1183, a new bill is moving through the state Legislature that would increase the general excise tax on Oahu from 4.7 percent to 5.2 percent. Neighbor islands would be affected as well. The bill itself proposes a half-percent increase for all residents statewide….

Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, says there are many bills being considered by the State Legislature that could make a significant cut into your budget.

He says residents should be concerned about a proposal that would add another half-percent to the general excise tax, in addition to the one Oahu residents are already paying for rail.

The Tax Foundation estimates that the half-percent tax equals to about $200 per person a year, and that’s for every adult and child. So a family of four with two kids would pay $800 a year.

“It’s going to be a hardship,” said Salt Lake resident Deborah Fortson. “My husband’s retired. I take care of my mom, who is living with me, so I would be the only income at the home.”

“What do you cut back on if that happens? Where does it hurt the most?” KHON2 asked.

“Taking care of my mom,” she said. “There would have to be things that she wouldn’t — I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. Even though we live in a circle, we live on an island, we still need gas, or any of the necessities that she might need.” ….

CB: Debate Hawaii: No More Money For Honolulu Rail

read … Tax expert says potential half-percent increase would affect family finances

Oahu drivers could get triple taxed

KITV: The Honolulu City Council advances three bills that could make your commute much more costly.

The measures raise vehicle and fuel taxes, plus double metered parking rates.

"Right now it is $3 for 2 hours so it adds up. Doubling it would be difficult, for most people," said Wahiawa resident Laura Julius….

Another bill would raise the vehicle weight tax by a penny a pound, in each of the next two years.  Pennies may not sound like much, they add up quickly.

A standard sized car weighs 3200 pounds and has a current tax of $160 per year.  The additional penny a pound would increase the fee $32 next year and another $32 in 2019.  The costs would be much more for bigger, heavier vehicles. Which is why some drivers want to put the brakes on rising registration fees.

"Between the three of us, in a three household we pay about $1,500 currently. They're not fancy cars. They are simple cars, small cars but everything gets added onto us as citizens of Hawaii," said Mela Kealoha-Lindsey, with Creations of Hawaii.

A third bill would change the county fuel tax from the current 16.5 cents on every gallon. It would tack on another 3.5 cents per gallon. This increase would be paid at the pump, which means it would impact those who drive the most .

"I ask that you kill this bill, because it is adding more discomfort for us on the west side. We drive all the way in from Waianae to town to talk to you guys, I pay a higher cost than you guys," said DeMont Conner, with Ho'omana Pono LLC.

"We shouldn't be taxing people based on the fact of where they have to live just to survive," said Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

But all three measures passed a first reading….

read … Oahu drivers could get triple taxed

PUC starts public hearings on $100M Hawaiian Electric rate hike

HNN: …The proposed rate increase would cover all three companies, including Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light companies.

"We're looking for about over a hundred million dollars in additional revenues per year," said HECO president and CEO Alan Oshima, who added that it translates to a 6.9 percent increase in its base rates to provide electricity….

Hawaiian Electric is also dealing with the increase in the number of rooftop solar systems since the last rate increase in 2011. "Six years ago, five thousand," said Oshima. "Today, on Oahu, 55,000. And overall statewide about 70,000 in our area."….

Big Q: What do you think of HECO’s proposed 6.9 percent increase in energy rates?

SA: HECO hike attracts no foes to talk at hearing

read … Rate Hike

Some customers asked to pay thousands to connect with solar

KHON: Some Hawaiian Electric customers are being asked to pay thousands of dollars more if they want to get on the grid.

HECO says 370 letters were sent to customers still wanting a PV system under the old Net Energy Metering program.

KHON2 obtained two different letters HECO sent out to Net Energy Metering customers dated January 2017.

One customer was asked to pay $8,000, and another more than $26,000 to get on the grid….

The PUC confirms HECO is allowed to propose the additional fees, because these particular customers have issues connecting to the system….

read … Solar Scam

Hawaii County Affordable Housing Rents to go up 36%

HTH: Hawaii County’s housing department is proposing a 36 percent rent hike at its Kula‘imano Elderly Housing Project in Pepeekeo.

Housing Administrator Neil Gyotoku said the rise from $441 to $600 a month for the one-bedroom units is intended to cover shortfalls and build up reserves. The last three fiscal years have seen expenses for the housing project on average exceed revenue by $30,119, according to the Office of Housing and Community Development….

read … Affordable

Now That Maui Memorial is to be Privatized, Legislators Act to End Multi-Million Dollar Waitlisting Scheme

MN: …The House Committee on Health has amended and recommended passage of a bill to provide a state subsidy that would allow Hale Makua Health Services to admit more wait-listed patients who are no longer in need of acute care but are taking up valuable beds at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

As drafted by House Speaker Joe Souki of Wailuku, House Bill 995 would appropriate as much as $4 million over two years to move patients no longer in need of acute care from Maui Memorial to Hale Makua with a cost savings to the state of more than four times the subsidy.

Last week, the Health Committee called for passing the bill on second reading and referred it to the House Finance Committee, inserting an unspecified amount for the appropriation and changing the effective date of the bill from July 1 to that date in 2090 “to encourage further discussion.”

According to the bill, it costs $1,500 per day to care for a wait-listed patient at the 213-bed Maui Memorial, and transferring them to lower-cost, 366-bed Hale Makua would yield a net savings to the state of nearly $9 million per year.

The transfer of hospital operations from the quasi-public Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to Kaiser Permanente later this year would exacerbate the wait-list problem because Kaiser would bring more physicians to the island and create more demand for beds at Maui Memorial, the bill says.

In written testimony in support of the bill, former Maui Memorial chief and current Hale Makua Chief Executive Officer Wesley Lo said demand for beds at Maui Memorial often exceeds capacity, resulting in “backups” in the emergency room.

“Much of the problem with Maui Memorial operating over capacity is related to the high number of patients who are no longer considered ‘acute’ and are no longer in need of acute level of services,” he wrote.

The hospital has from 35 to 40 beds per day taken up by “wait-list” patients, Lo said. The cost ranges from $19.2 million to $21.9 million per year…. (And multiply this by all the other HHSC hospitals.)

read … HHSC Subsidy

Push for paid sick time rankles Hawaii eateries

HNN: …State lawmakers are considering a proposal that would require companies with 50 or more employees to offer paid sick time to full- and part-time food service workers. The initiative is aimed at stopping the spread of illnesses (such as free enterprise)….

"Families are in the workforce, both the mom and the dad. There's often a time when you need a day or two off because somebody's sick and you shouldn't be at work," she said.

Meanwhile, a measure moving through the Senate would allow workers to carry over up to 40 hours of sick time from year to year.

That's got Highway Inn's Ryan concerned. She fears the added expense would be another bite at the bottom line of eateries struggling to make a profit.

"The restaurant industry has dealt with the Hepatitis A outbreak last year," she said. "We're also dealing with the current minimum wage increases. We're also dealing with increased healthcare costs."….

read … Sick Leave

To Be A Honolulu Police Commissioner, First Be A Political Insider

CB: There are no requirements to serve on the board charged with civilian oversight of a scandal-ridden police department.

In 2006, Jimmy Borges quit the Honolulu Police Commission in the middle of his five-year term because he was worried Mayor Mufi Hannemann was appointing people who weren’t qualified to do the job.

The irony was that Borges himself had no background in law enforcement or government accountability that might have made him better suited to regulate one of the largest police departments in the country.

He was a jazz singer who was best known as Hawaii’s Frank Sinatra. But most of all he considered himself smart.

“The most important criteria is intelligence,” the late Borges said during a 2015 television interview. “You can’t just appoint somebody who’s a pal but basically whose IQ is closer to his belt size.”

Borges wasn’t alone in his displeasure. His close friend, Cha Thompson, herself a well-known entertainer who had appeared in TV shows such as “Hawaii Five-O,” “Jake and the Fatman” and “Magnum, P.I.,” walked away from the commission for similar reasons.

Like Borges, Thompson didn’t boast the credentials one might expect. She helped run Tihati Productions, a Polynesian cultural entertainment company that hires musicians, dancers and choreographers to perform at luaus, private parties and convention centers.

Thompson has since been reappointed.

The makeup of the Police Commission has often been a reflection of the state’s insular socio-political dynamics dominated by government insiders with strong ties to business, tourism and organized labor.

read … Insider

Honolulu Ethics Commission finds no conflicts in legal campaign support from special interests

ILind: …Yesterday the Honolulu Ethics Commission issued two opinions which generally agreed with my assessment of the two issues raised.

Advisory Opinion 2017-1 found that independent expenditures by Super Pacs do not create a conflict of interest for council members who benefit from their activities because “they are made without the coordination of a candidate or a candidate’s campaign and are therefore too attenuated.”

The opinion quotes from a federal court decision in the case of Yamada v. Kuramoto.

Although the government might still limit contributions made directly to candidates or parties, “the need for contribution limitations to combat corruption or the appearance thereof tends to decrease as the link between the candidate and the regulated entity becomes more attenuated.” If the organization receiving contributions truly engages in only independent expenditures, the link is not only attenuated—it is broken. An anti-corruption or appearance of corruption rationale is nonexistent.

Advisory Opinion 2017-2 addresses the issue whether a candidate who receives 40% or more of their campaign contributions from a special interest group has a conflict of interest as a result of those contributions.

The commission found that the matter is beyond their jurisdiction “because campaign contributions, regardless of amount, are specifically excluded from said section.” That’s the same thing I pointed out back in my 2015 post.

Furthermore, the opinion properly notes that the Campaign Spending Commission has “primary and exclusive jurisdiction over campaign issues,” and so the campaign laws preempt the kinds of issues Dudley has raised.

read … no conflicts

Anti-Fishing Activists Already Trying to Deflect Blame for ‘Crippling’ Hawaii Fishing Fleet

DN: The latest Associated Press story exposing (hyping) conditions in Hawaii’s long lines fishing fleet is spreading to news outlets nationally and internationally. This story focuses on the potential consequences of new legislation currently being heard in the state legislature that would change the way fishing licenses are issued to foreign fishermen.

If Hawaii’s commercial fishing industry is “crippled” by a new law, it would only be because Governor Ige’s administration did nothing to bring the state’s practice of licensing foreign fishermen into conformance with existing state laws….

read … Look in the Mirror

Water Grab: Anti-Agriculture Activists Run  into Opposition from Upcountry Maui 

MN: …Upcountry residents, farmers and ranchers had their own concerns about water supply and rates if the lease were not approved. All of them said they rely on the water and do not believe the county has the ability to run EMI’s system or to meet the area’s water needs.

“I believe everybody needs water,” said Upcountry rancher Brendan Balthazar, who is a board member of the Maui County Farm Bureau and Cattlemen’s Association. “I depend on that water. So do my animals and so does my lifestyle.”

Balthazar asked how much water taro farmers needed to restore their loi or patches and whether the rest could be diverted for other uses. He was opposed to using diverted water for future development and said that HC&S land should remain in agriculture.

He was not confident that the county could manage the ditch system.

“The county has no way in hell taking care of that ditch,” he said. “They don’t have the resources or the funding.”

County Water Supply Director Dave Taylor said after the meeting that Upcountry residents depend on the system, but that the county could takeover the EMI ditch system if needed.

“It’s not impossible,” Taylor said. “It’s still human beings and contractors and equipment, and they could all work for us. There’s the business plan about money, and there’s rules of government procedures. It can be done — it wouldn’t be easy and it wouldn’t be inexpensive, but it can be done.”

The county would need a new substantial revenue stream in order to take over the system, he said. The Upcountry water system, the second largest in the county, serves more than 35,000 people….

read … Government Contracting Doesn’t Work

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