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Saturday, June 27, 2009
June 27, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:36 AM :: 9049 Views

Furlough talks hit a wall (no meetings scheduled)

After Tuesday's four-hour bargaining session arranged by federal mediator Ken Kawamoto, the two sides have been on call, with no meetings scheduled.

Union officials say Gov. Linda Lingle will not accept conditions put to her at the June 23 meeting and the unions will not meet without some assurances that the state will accept their demands.  (In other words the judge they shopped for is going to block furloughs.  They are demanding layoffs.)

Specifically, the unions want Lingle to use the $180 million in the Hurricane Relief Fund and the $45 million in the state rainy day fund and then explore raising the general excise tax before cutting public worker salaries, Musto said.  (Next hurricane will be named 'HGEA'.)

The recently concluded state Legislature balanced the budget by raising the hotel room tax, cutting programs and taking nearly $100 million out of special funds, including $20 million from the Hawaii Tobacco Settlement Fund, $20 million from the Housing Revolving Fund and $16 million from the Wireless Enhanced 911 Fund.

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Health plan switch surprises teachers--Union cuts members benefits

The self-funded medical plan of the Hawaii State Teachers Association has covered 90 percent of health care costs. Members will be switched to a new plan offering 80 percent payment, administered by HMA Inc., an Arizona-based company.

Switching administrators and cutting benefits was necessary to keep costs in check, said Rod Shinno, administrator of the union's Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association Trust, which provides medical insurance to its members but farms out the administration to a third party.

VEBA Trust lost $7 million over the past two years from using HMSA as a claims processor after HMSA increased its reimbursements to doctors, Shinno said. The higher reimbursements and associated cost increases to employees were unbeknownst to the trust at the time  (Really?  MD's reimbursements were in the newspapers)

"I've talked to colleagues around the island and state, and not one is happy about this decision," Denis said. "It would have been nice to have had the option to decide this. They told us in mid June and it goes into effect July 1."
Teachers' comments on the union's Facebook site reveal many are unhappy with the reduction in coverage and the sudden change.
"I am upset that our union changed us from HMSA to HMA, resulting in a decrease in coverage for most services without consulting us," one teacher wrote.

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Hannemann will let tax hikes take effect without signature

His main concern focused on a 13-cent hike in the real property tax rate, setting it at $3.42 per $1,000 of property value, with no tax credit for homeowners who live on their property. Hannemann had urged a rate of $3.59, with a $75 tax credit for owner-occupants, to help offset the increase.

"If it were possible -- legally possible -- I would have vetoed the tax rate that the Council proposed," he said.  (Because it is not high enough.)

Honolulu mayor lets tax hikes, fees go through without veto

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Gubernatorial fundraising in full swing

(Borreca outlines Duke Aiona's California fundraising and then details Hannemann and Abercrombie's Hawaii fundraising.  Typical bias.)

Aiona, who declared for governor two years ago, has had 28 fundraisers. Although new campaign collection figures won't be available until the end of July, Aiona already reports raising $1.5 million for the campaign and spending $885,000.

Tonight, Bert T. Kobayashi Jr. is hosting a $1,000-per ticket reception for Mayor Mufi Hannemann, a Democrat. Kobayashi is a senior partner with the law firm of Kobayashi, Sugita and Goda.  (Some old boys are older than others)

Finally, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, also a Democrat, is formally kicking off his campaign Monday night with a "Birthday Bash" at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Abercrombie will be celebrating his 71st birthday (which was yesterday) with 1,100 supporters, paying $200 per ticket.

Laurie Au, Abercrombie's campaign spokeswoman, said the fundraiser will feature an appearance by actress Kelly Hu.  (Which is necessary to get anybody to show up.  BTW who is her promoter and what are HIS connections/record?) 

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Court backs Tavares, upholds higher political contribution limits for unions, businesses

HONOLULU - Hawaii businesses may donate the same amounts to political candidates as individuals, according to a Thursday ruling by the state Intermediate Court of Appeals upholding a lower court's decision.

The appeals court rejected an argument that companies should be allowed to contribute only a total of $1,000 to all candidates in an election.

The court's decision means that businesses and unions can donate to a candidate as much as campaign committees and individuals - between $2,000 and $6,000 per election cycle, depending on the office being sought.

The case pitted Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares against the state Campaign Spending Commission, which claimed that she shouldn't have accepted contributions of more than $1,000 from several businesses during her 2006 run for office.

SB: Appeals court backs Tavares on campaign contributions

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Tavares continues to destroy economy

WAILUKU - Roughly 100 owners and employees of Maui commercial ocean recreational activities filled a county planning department conference room Friday, many saying that they were befuddled and upset with proposed rule changes introduced by Mayor Charmaine Tavares' administration.

Several owners of schools that teach surfing, scuba, snorkeling, kiteboarding, windsurfing and kayaking said the new rules will eventually reduce the number of activity permits and beaches available to them by 35 percent. This is on top of an economic downturn that has forced some of these businesses to lay off up to 40 percent of their staff and led to income losses of 60 percent, they testified.

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Lingle critical of Maui lawmakers

WAILEA - Gov. Linda Lingle on Friday took jabs at the Maui County Council and Maui's state legislators over decisions they've made during these dire economic times.

Speaking to members of the Maui Chamber of Commerce at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, Lingle said the Maui County Council should not have reduced funding by $500,000 to the Maui Visitors Bureau

Lingle has a deadline Tuesday to list her intended vetoes. Legislators will go into a special session July 15 to override vetoed bills, although not necessarily all of them.

Lingle said increasing taxes such as the barrel tax, which lawmakers are proposing to hike from 5 cents to $1.05, will take away $15 million to $17 million from residents who will be paying more at gas pumps.

But lawmakers have said the increase could raise around $31 million and pay for alternative energy projects and food safety programs.

Lingle asked people to call their legislators if they oppose the tax increases.

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Downward trend in Maui visitors continues

Visitor arrivals to Maui in May were at 145,790, down 13.9 percent; Molokai was at 3,709, off 36.4 percent; and Lanai was at 5,003, a decline of 25.1 percent - all from May 2008.

Overall state visitor numbers were at 516,204 in May, a reduction of 6.9 percent from the same month last year.

For year-to-date numbers through May, Maui's head count was at 768,161, down 18.3 percent; Molokai was at 21,447, off 39.7 percent; and Lanai was at 26,063, a drop of 35.5 percent. The statewide visitor count through May was nearly 2.7 million, a reduction of 10.3 percent.

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Maui gets another molester-connected Leg. candidate

I am therefore stepping up to the plate and running for South Maui State House representative in 2010. And now, because I have become alarmed about the drug abuse epidemic in our state - and especially on our island - I have accepted the position as counselor supervisor for the substance abuse treatment program at Maui County Correctional Center. A minimum 80 percent of female and 60 percent of male inmates in Hawaii's prisons are addicted. It is only through providing compassionate and clear treatment of these serious diseases that we can eradicate crime.... Netra Halperin, Kihei

Halperin's on-line bio shows that she "Is Legislative Aide/Lobbyist for State Rep Rida Cabanilla...for the 2009 session."

And which convicted child molester was Rida Cabanilla's office manager in 2009? --- Leon Rouse.  Don't hold your breath for the Maui News to bring this out.

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Hawaii County Company involved in bidding controversy still getting paid 

Kamaaina Pumping, the company owned by a county Department of Public Works division head (Randy Riley), holds the current contract and will continue the work while the investigation is conducted.

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One union set to strike Matson Saturday

One of the unions in contract talks with Matson Navigation Co. will go on strike in Seattle this morning, likely disrupting the loading and sailing schedule of the SS Maui, an attorney for the unions said this morning....

Charles Khim, attorney for the unions, said the American Radio Association will strike the SS Maui at 8 a.m. today in Seattle. While only one member of that union is assigned to the Maui, other unions are likely to honor the picket line, Khim said.

One of those is the ILWU, whose longshoremen would not load the ship if they honor the picket, Khim told The Advertiser.

The SS Maui's destination is Oakland, Calif.

Earlier yesterday, talks between Matson Navigation Co. and the three unions that represent its captains and crewmembers in San Francisco were said to be going well, with both sides reporting that progress was being made in an attempt to reach a contract settlement.

Hull said some progress had been made, but declined further comment.

Hull and Khim said management and the unions are focused on the talks and did not want to negotiate in the media.

"But they said they're closer than they were this morning," Khim said last night.

Matson's contract with the three unions expired Thursday night, but both sides agreed to resume talks yesterday.

Hawaii Businesses Eye Matson Talks Closely

Matson And Unions Still “Far Apart”

Matson, unions 'getting closer' in contract talks

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