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Wednesday, April 18, 2018
April 18, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:18 PM :: 4221 Views

New study ranks Hawaii economy poorly but offers guide to ‘course correction’

Most Ethics-Related Bills Dead for Session

Schatz Calls Out Party For Fundraising Off Fake News

Which Hawaii Town is Best Place to Start a Business?

April 24: Caldwell to Announce Plan to Increase traffic jams near UH campus

Ige Selects Troy Hashimoto for Souki Seat

Our Connection to the Stars

Children's Health Care Hawaii Ranks 7th

State is Swimming in Money and Legislators Still Push Massive Tax Hikes to Feed Unions

SA: …The state House and Senate on Tuesday began public discussions on next year’s budget, which is expected to total more than $14 billion.

Those talks, which will continue in public and private meetings in the weeks ahead, are more politically charged than usual because they come during an election year and include proposals for possible tax increases even though the state is again running a near-record budget surplus.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz prefers to describe his proposed tax increases and other changes as “revenue enhancers.”

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said she supports changes to promote “tax fairness” and an “equal playing field.”

Meanwhile, state tax collections are booming. Lawmakers recently released a new financial plan by Gov. David Ige’s administration that projects the state will close this fiscal year on June 30 with a general fund budget surplus of more than $1 billion, meaning the state will have racked up 10-digit surpluses in two of the last three fiscal years.

That has never happened before, and the latest tax collections published by the state Department of Taxation suggest even that projection is probably conservative.

The House’s proposed budget assumes state tax collections will grow by 4.5 percent this year, while the Senate assumes it will increase by a robust 5.3 percent. However, actual collections through the end of March grew at a rate of 6.5 percent.

If that trend continues for the next three months, tax collections will be about $80 million more this year than the Senate expected, meaning the state budget surplus for fiscal year 2018 might set a new record….

The administration is depending on cash reserves to cover expenses in the years ahead, and “the state is spending more than what it generates,” Dela Cruz warned colleagues in a Senate floor speech April 10.

One major reason is the surging cost of the state’s public employee health and retirement benefits.

In the fiscal year that begins July 1, the state will have to pay $787 million for the future health benefits of public workers and retirees, and $676 million for the current health coverage of active employees and retirees.

The state also will have to contribute $855 million next year for its share of the public workers pension fund, according to the state Department of Budget and Finance….

The Senate voted to pass bills to increase the state conveyance tax for residential investment properties worth more than $2 million, increase taxes on timeshares and tax the “resort fees” that are often charged to hotel guests separately from the basic room rates.

His package also includes proposals to increase taxes paid by online platforms for transient vacation rental bookings and take steps to collect taxes owed for online retail purchases. Dela Cruz describes those as “revenue enhancers” because taxes already are owed for those online purchases but often go unpaid.

But Dela Cruz is not up for re-election until 2020, and the entire House of Representatives must stand for re-election this year….

read … State House and Senate launch budget talks

Can Hanabusa Exploit Flooding Disaster for Political Advantage? 

Cataluna: …Early in the morning after all that scary lightning and torrential rain, city and country trucks mobilized on residential streets, and state crews were out in force scooping up mud and debris along Kalanianaole. Local government was clearly on the job.

It is an election year.

Just pointing that out seems cynical. Surely help would be prompt regardless of political pressure. Most people want to help.

But it is a plain fact that every politician knows: When there is a natural disaster, elected officials are judged by their actions in the aftermath. Raging storms not only threaten houses; they can irreparably damage political ambitions.

It all has to be handled skillfully, though. Going out with shovels and campaign T-shirts and a team to post pics on social media can be worse than not going out at all….

Cleanup and reconstruction will go on for untold months, both in East Honolulu and on Kauai, which suffered unfathomable (really?) destruction over the weekend. This work of restoration will coincide with the revving up of political campaigns, and candidates will be judged not only by what they did, but when they showed up and how earnestly they helped….

read … Disaster response presents crucial test for officials

Most States Outlaw Fundraising During Legislative Session—Not Hawaii

CB: …In doing so, Hawaii would join about 30 states that already place restrictions on fundraising during session. Some laws apply only to lobbyists and/or political action committees, but others include all persons. Oregon, Alaska and Washington state are among the Western states that have some form of restriction on the books.

Illinois actually bans fundraisers for legislative candidates within 50 miles of Springfield during session, except for those lawmakers who represent that area. In Nevada, contribution restrictions begin 30 days before and end 30 days after session.

States differ in how often legislators officially meet. But the obvious scheme for many of Hawaii’s elected officials is to hold fundraisers during session, usually at places within walking distance of the Capitol, often inside restaurants and bars.

With barely two weeks left in the 2018 session, which concludes May 3, at least 37 of Hawaii’s 76 lawmakers have held fundraisers during session. Some of them held more than one. The legislators also include more than a dozen lawmakers who represent neighbor island districts yet felt it important to ask for money in Honolulu.

Meantime, Ige has held six fundraisers of his own since the new year, and Hanabusa seven. State Sen. Josh Green, a candidate for lieutenant governor, has held nine.

Worse, voters don’t even get a peek at the latest campaign finance reports until just a few weeks before the primary election. There’s no way to know who is influencing lawmakers until too late in the game.

read … Influencing

Rosy numbers may be hiding Hawaii's unfunded pension liabilities

TH: …Government watchdogs have been warning for years that underfunded public employee pension programs will create economic havoc in the states and municipalities that have promised benefits they can’t afford.

Current estimates place the nationwide total unfunded pension liabilities about about $5.6 trillion, with the national funding level at about 35 percent. Some municipalities have already been forced into bankruptcy, like Detroit, Mich.; Stockton, San Bernardino and Vallejo, Calif.; Harrisburg, Penn.; Jefferson County, Ala.; and Central Falls, R.I., among others."

But while many people are aware of the problem of unfunded public pension plans, there’s another fiscal crisis on the horizon: the other post-employment benefit (OPEB) liabilities….

read … Rosy numbers may be hiding Hawaii's unfunded pension liabilities

Cost of Hawaii county government? $2,449 each

WHT:  ..If each man, woman and child living on the Big Island dug into a pocket and handed over his or her share of the cost of running county government, that amount would be $2,449.

Those on the receiving end call it the per capita operating budget, while those on the giving end may call it the local tax burden. It’s computed by dividing the total operating budget by the number of residents…..

read … Cost of county government? $2,449 each

Bumpy Kanahele Scheme: Exploit Homeless to grab Control of Golf Course

SA: …With news that the company couldn’t continue to pay vendors and employees and was closing the golf course indefinitely, Kanahele — who lives a few miles above the property at the base of the Koolaus — is hoping to step in. This time it would be in the role of redeveloper of the land and restorer of the ahupuaa (a land division that runs from the mountains to the ocean).

The golf course and surrounding land have been plagued by flooding from the adjacent Waimanalo Stream on the Marine Corps property at Bellows Air Force Station, largely leading to its financial troubles.

The land is owned by the state and was leased to the golf course owner. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees the property, declined to comment Tuesday on Kanahele’s plan….

Kanahele is hoping to assume control of the land to create another village to house the growing homeless population….

read … Theft

Hawaii seafood wholesalers fear Congress could block mainland marlin exports

HNN: Last year, Garden & Valley Isle Seafood, Inc. exported roughly 300,000 pounds of freshly-caught marlin to the mainland.

The sales added up to nearly $1.5 million worth of striped marlin, blue marlin and spearfish to wholesalers, supermarkets, chefs and restaurants.

"It's a major part of what we export out of the state," said Bob Fram, the company's president.

Hawaii seafood exporters fear those sales may soon suffer serious slowdowns – more specifically, that Congress is about to pull the plug on that lucrative mainland marlin market.

Bills in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House call for amending the Billfish Conservation Act to prevent the commercial export of marlin caught in Hawaiian waters to the mainland.

Florida Rep. Darren Soto introduced the House measure.

"This bill strikes a balance between preserving this traditional cultural fishing in these areas and the overall intent to prevent large scale commercial fishing of these billfish," he said.

Testimony on the measure by NOAA's Office of Sustainable Fisheries said that in the Pacific, "billfish populations are not overfished or subject to overfishing and are being sustainably managed." ….

IF: Proposed law-poised-to-shut-out-hawaiian-marlin-sector

read … Hawaii seafood wholesalers fear Congress could block mainland marlin exports

Workers Comp: Drunken Money-Grubbing Lawyer Assaults Doctor

CB: …Chris Brigham presents himself as an advocate for people who have been injured on the job.

Workers are “members of the family,” the 67-year-old doctor told listeners at a convention in Las Vegas in December. “They really define who the company is.”

And when they’re injured, he says, they should not be cast off as “disposable items.”

He can sound, at times, like an alternative healer, leading his Las Vegas audience in a one-minute mindfulness meditation. He describes his encounters with Peruvian shamans and the lessons they offer. He rails against Big Pharma advertising and advocates for universal health care.

The one-time Oahu resident says he has been profoundly influenced by the Hawaiian values of aloha, pono and kuleana.

So why was this well-intentioned physician, by his own account, once accosted at a conference and thrown against the wall by a drunken attorney representing someone hurt on the job?

Brigham says his push for more objective evaluation of injured workers and up-to-date treatment cost the lawyer money….

read … Whose Side Is This Workers’ Comp Doctor On?

Top Mainland Eco-Faddist Demands Cold Showers for Hilo

IM: Climate change writer Bill McKibben spoke at the Honolulu Museum of Art`s Doris Duke Theatre ecclesiastical council of the eco religion. The discussion was part of the Merwin Conservancy`s Green Room series.

Taylour Chang, Director of the Doris Duke Theater opened the presentation. W.S. Merwin`s stepson Matthew Schwartz discussed the role of the Merwin Conservancy. Then came poetry reading by Maya Kasandra Soetoro-Ng. 

(Translation: We are the state religion.  Bow down.)

McKibben addressed the audience in a quiet and reflective voice.

“I was just talking to my colleagues at 350 Hawai` They were explaining that they`re working hard to get a bill through the Legislature, at the moment. They`re building apparently thousands and thousands of homes here on the island with natural gas, fracked gas water heaters instead of solar water heaters. This is really nuts.”….

“I`d always been told that environmentalism is something rich white people did, and if you didn`t know where you`re next meal was coming from you wouldn`t be an environmentalist….”  (Know them by what they deny!)

read … Stick Solar Where the Sun Don’t Shine

Are Hawaii Schools Doing Enough to Turn Kids Gay?

CB: (Skip paragraph after paragraph of complaints about bullying and get to the point….)

…The crux of Franklin’s argument is that school officials failed to implement programs or reporting policies or provide broader training to staff on LGBTQ issues…..

The DOE also argues it is not required to provide “LGBTQ training”….

Franklin has asked a Honolulu federal judge for partial judgment to find the DOE to be in violation of Title IX and to order it establish protocols and training for LGBTQ-related harassment. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for May 7.

Rob Smith, Franklin’s Seattle-based attorney, said the recent resolution agreement between the feds and the DOE to improve student harassment-related protocols in the state doesn’t go far enough.

“They can do better,” he told Civil Beat. “We want to see an injunction that will force them to do (so) and will force them to do so by a date certain.

“This case is about accountability. We want to see structural changes in the DOE so other kids….

read … Not Born That Way

Search warrant carried out at Ka‘u Learning Academy as it faces possible closure

HTH: The state attorney general’s office executed a search warrant at Ka‘u Learning Academy on Tuesday morning, school leaders confirmed Tuesday….

The commission first put KLA on notice for revocation in November after problems found in KLA’s fiscal year 2017 audit were alleged to potentially have violated provisions of its charter contract.

Those problems included failing to follow standard accounting practices, a lack of separation of duties in school financial procedures and noncompliance with Department of Labor laws and regulations.

The commission also voted at that time to withhold state funding to KLA, excluding money for necessary operations….

read … Search warrant carried out at Ka‘u Learning Academy as it faces possible closure

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