Gov. Lingle accuses Mufi of complicating state labor talks
"The mayors have muddied the waters and made the situation for the state more difficult than they need to be," Lingle said yesterday at the Korean Festival at Kapiolani Park. "Mayor Hannemann made it seem as if Monday was a big negotiating day when in fact Monday is happening because I wrote a letter ... asking (two unions) to meet with us to discuss our furlough plan."
"Really, the mayors are not a part of Monday," she said. "The purpose of Monday was to negotiate furloughs and it's only the state that has a furlough plan."
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who was also at the festival but did not talk with Lingle, says the mayors were invited to tomorrow's meeting and that he will be there, talking about labor contracts. He said he wants a master agreement between the state and the unions so that individual deals can also be made in the counties.
Hannemann called on Lingle to be at the talks. Lingle's labor negotiator walked out of a union meeting this past Monday because the unions didn't have a formal proposal.
"She's trying to limit the discussion to just furloughs on Monday because that's what she wants," he said. "We're saying no. We got the unions on the record. We're going to talk about anything that has to do with collective bargaining."
"We want her to come to the table," he said. "The more she sticks to her old position, we'll never have any progress moving forward."
Lingle said she doesn't plan to be at tomorrow's meeting.
Coming to terms with state's new reality
In light of the July 2 court ruling against our furlough plan, my administration is moving forward on several tracks to resolve the budget shortfall. Because we believe that furloughs are still the best way to address the fiscal crisis, we will likely appeal the Circuit Court's recent ruling.
In the meantime, we are scheduled to meet with public employee unions tomorrow to negotiate furloughs. We are also developing layoff procedures, which may become a necessary but undesirable reality.
Some have proposed alternate means of making up the budget shortfall, including raising taxes, implementing a 5 percent across-the-board pay cut for state workers, a shortened furlough schedule or delaying judicial appointments. I cannot support raising taxes because it would cause further hardship for families and businesses, and delay our economic recovery. None of the other suggestions will produce nearly enough savings to solve the problem at hand. My administration's current proposals do.
It is my constitutional obligation to ensure the state operates with a balanced budget. We must live within our means, and that requires that we provide public services that the government can afford while maintaining service levels as best we can. After losing one-third of our expected revenue, we simply cannot afford to continue operating our state government in the manner and at the cost that we are currently. In order to overcome this period of adversity, it will require a dual focus to contain operating costs while also moving forward to spur our state's economic recovery. And it will require a shared sacrifice by all.
Impact of raising hotel tax
Tour wholesalers, lodging companies and other firms specializing in Hawai'i travel say they will absorb hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses over the next few months rather than retroactively charge guests for an increase in the hotel-room tax that went into effect July 1.
They say part of the problem is that the 1 percentage point increase to 7.25 percent took effect just weeks after lawmakers agreed to it, leaving little time to notify customers who had already booked their vacations.
Industry leaders said it makes for bad customer relations to tack the tax on after a lower price was quoted earlier, even if the percentage increase is relatively small. But for companies that deal in thousands of visitors, the small amount adds up quickly during an economic downturn.
Casualties of the tourism downturn are evident. Marc Resorts Hawaii, a hotel management company, closed. The Ilikai Hotel closed Thursday night but negotiations are under way to reopen soon. Other companies have laid off workers or cut hours to stay afloat.
The head of Hawai'i-based Outrigger Enterprises Group, David Carey, said lawmakers described the increase as only 2 percentage points over the two years but that's actually a 28 percent increase in the size of the tax.
And any increase hits the lucrative Japanese market hard, said Akio Hoshino, senior vice president of Jalpak International Hawaii Inc., which sells travel packages.
Hoshino estimates the tax will cost his company at least $400,000 this year. "We pay it for them; we cannot charge them because we had already informed them much in advance," he said. "It's a small amount but it becomes a huge amount for package wholesalers."
State Sen. Clarence Nishihara heads the Senate Tourism Committee. He said lawmakers felt they were left with little choice because of the need to pay
for off critical state services Democrat voters during an economic decline.
He said he never heard discussion of delaying the tax to September or January to allow preparation time ... (but there is no rush to implement layoffs or furloughs.) .
Ilikai, Union Reach Agreement To Reopen Hotel
The deal will include hiring back most of the hotel's employees at the same wage and benefits package, the union said. The deal also includes workers keeping vacation pay they had accrued. Workers who are not rehired will be offered severance pay, union officials said.
Tech industry awaits Lingle's final decision on SB 199
FIDELL: In her veto list of June 30, Gov. Linda Lingle said she would veto SB 199, the bill that pulled the wings off Act 221, the high-tech tax credit.
SB 199 also suspended the capital goods excise tax credit. This is a tax increase, and some constituents may be asking her to veto on that basis.
She knows tech is ticked that the Legislature passed SB 199, with special enmity for those who pushed it and would try to override a veto.
With SB 199, Act 221 is dead. Startups are not asking for 221 comfort letters and no one's getting one. Investors are looking at other ways to shelter their taxes. Veto or not, the damage is done, and what's left of 221 expires in 2010.
As a result, there are already job losses, deals have been killed, companies are closing and other companies are staying away.
(The tech-leeches speculate endlessly on how to suck up your tax dollars for the 100% phony 'tech' companies.)
Matsunaga offers fresh start for District 5
From that wide field, The Advertiser endorses Matt Matsunaga, the former state senator representing some of the same communities, as the candidate best equipped to step into the job and bring a fresh perspective to the problems.
Matsunaga's most powerful rival for the job representing this central Honolulu district is Ann Kobayashi, who held the seat until her decision to run against Mayor Mufi Hannemann in his re-election bid last fall. Kobayashi's decision, made in the 11th hour before the filing deadline, had the effect of limiting the field of contenders for the council seat she was leaving. Kobayashi denies that this was her intent, but the maneuver angered many in her district.
Illegal landfill yields clues
He described the site as a years-old "active landfill" about two acres in size and filled with "hundreds and hundreds of tons of hazardous solid waste and potentially toxic materials" dumped inside a gated and locked setting.
The materials include concrete blocks, old painted wood, asphalt, rebar, cast iron, hollow tile bricks, roofing materials and green matter. While much of the debris is covered with dirt, several recent mountains of rubble also decorate the canyon landscape.
"What's happened is that they buried the stuff and spread the dirt over it," Cox said.
"You can see where they've graded this. I mean, whoever's doing this is pretty bold. They are going in there with heavy equipment after they've dumped, and then bury it — smash it down and spread it out and put dirt on it."
Hawaii County sued over tack coat contract
Keaau company HMP Inc. held an exclusive one-year contract to supply a liquid asphalt material called tack coat to the county. But less than two months into the contract, a high-level county employee instead bought $31,556 worth of the material from competing company Grace Pacific, of Kailua-Kona, for use on a Saddle Road repaving project.
Maui Wipeout: Foreclosures, bankruptcies pummel county residents
WAILUKU - There were so many homes scheduled for Friday's foreclosure auction that John Andersen started getting lost as he scanned through the list while trying to keep up with the auctioneer.
The executive director of Na Hale O Maui attends the daily auctions held on the steps of the Wailuku courthouse and sees lists of 20 to 30 homes on a busy day. At Friday's auction, there were 44.
Of the properties scheduled for auction, three were sold and two were canceled - meaning the owners had worked out a deal with the bank to get out of foreclosure.
That left 39 properties "deferred," or rescheduled for auction, keeping them in limbo for another week, another month or longer, on a list of pending foreclosures that is growing longer every day.
Experts working with bankruptcies and foreclosures said the trend started after last year's mass layoffs at Molokai Ranch (Thanks OHA, Machado & Ritte), Aloha Airlines (Thanks, Leg. and Hawaiian Air), ATA and Maui Land & Pineapple Co., and filings have increased at a steady clip ever since. (don't forget the Superferry, Thanks Maui Democratic Party)
There were 380 properties in Maui County going through foreclosure as of Friday, compared to fewer than 100 just one year ago.
Soon the world will know the story of a saintly man
Hearing the history from firsthand witnesses, "you understand the difficulties of life there, the harsh weather, the lack of food and water, and especially the loneliness and injustice of being separated from families," said Anwei Law. "Some people responded with 'reckless behavior' -- as Father Damien called it -- but clearly most of the people responded by working together to rebuild lives and form a community that was in great difficulty, yet was characterized by music, generosity, kindness and mutual support."