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Monday, April 17, 2017
April 17, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:35 PM :: 1806 Views

Tracking Eleven Tax Hike Bills into Secretive Conference Committees

Tax Hikes: What Your Lawmakers Are Getting Away With

CB: …since the 2017 legislative session falls into that time warp in which voters can’t immediately react to tax hikes, there are even more tax increases than usual making their way through the Legislature.….

…raising income taxes for higher earners (as in House Bill 209).

There is a proposal to increase internet taxation by changing the state’s definition of a “business” (Senate Bill 620).

There’s a possible surcharge on prepaid cell phones (House Bill 206), an effort to extend Obamacare’s individual mandate to the state level (House Bill 552), a surcharge on transient accommodation brokers like Airbnb (House Bill 1471), an extension of the rail surcharge (Senate Bill 1183), and the notorious effort to enshrine a special tax for education in the state constitution (Senate Bill 683), plus the law to implement that tax if it passes a public vote (Senate Bill 686).

And that’s just a few of the more successful tax proposals we’ve tracked this year. There are plenty of other tax hikes that were introduced and granted hearings.

The truly stunning thing to watch has been how easily these bills have moved through the Legislature. Other than the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and some like-minded organizations (and individuals), few have spoken out against raising taxes or pointed out the negative economic impact of tax hikes.

The real problem is that (especially in the one-party Senate) there is no significant opposition voice to raise these critical questions….

We are paying a steep price for the lack of ideological diversity in state government. In our marketplace of ideas, there is only one vendor.

The result is that Hawaii citizens are being shortchanged. Important questions are not being asked, either about raising taxes or about government spending. Instead, these proposals slide through the Legislature on a wave of collegiality.

What we really need are more policymakers who are willing to challenge this dominant philosophy…..

Related: Tracking Eleven Tax Hike Bills into Secretive Conference Committees

read … What Your Lawmakers Are Getting Away With

Star-Adv: Rail Broken Promises Corrosive

SA: Few public-policy debates have been as corrosive as the one over the completion of Honolulu’s elevated-guideway rail system. There’s a laundry list of reasons for that, of course. The project is years behind schedule and approaching $3 billion short of funds needed to finance and complete construction as envisioned, connecting East Kapolei with Ala Moana Center.

There have been promises made and broken, the finger-pointing aimed at various targets. Most of the recent installments of the blame game have played out in the halls of the state Capitol, where lawmakers have been loathe to extend the project’s funding mechanism again, only two years after the mayor swore the first extension would more than suffice….

(The rest is a long twisted excuse for a tax hike.)

read … Extend rail tax past 2 more years

Poll: Residents Support Legalizing TVRs 63% to 36%

SA: …In the latest Oahu telephone poll, conducted for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser by Ward Research Inc., 63 percent of participants said property owners should be allowed to rent all or part of their home to visitors. Only 36 percent said property owners should be restricted from renting their homes to visitors. About 1 percent declined to answer.

Among the 401 likely primary voters on Oahu surveyed, younger participants and members of the middle class were more apt to support homes used as vacation rentals. Most supporters came from East Honolulu, while most opponents came from the Ewa/Leeward Coast….

PDF: Public poll on Airbnb

read … Legalize

Legislators Want to Pressure Counties to Legalize vacation rentals

AP: The chairmen of Hawaii's House and Senate tourism committees expect to meet in the upcoming week to resolve differences over vacation rental tax bills that have passed their respective chambers.

Both bills would enable websites like Airbnb to collect state taxes on behalf of people renting rooms and homes.

Short-term rental operators are already required to pay general excise taxes and transient accommodations taxes under current law. But supporters say the legislation could help the state collect $100 million in taxes that are not currently being paid.

The issue is contentious in part because so many vacation rentals operate in violation of county law. This is particularly prevalent on Oahu, where the county has not authorized any new short-term rentals since the late 1980s.

Sen. Glenn Wakai said senators want to set up a taxing mechanism and to push the counties to set up a permitting system for short-term rentals if they have not done so already….

read … Tourism

Poll Looks at Airport Authority Proposal

SA: …Oahu residents are not particularly pleased with the condition of Honolulu International Airport, but a majority of them oppose the plan to create a new airport authority to try to better manage and maintain the state’s airport system.

A new poll by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser found 55 percent of Oahu voters oppose the airport authority plan, while only about a third support it….

The Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest public-worker union, opposes that plan.

HGEA says the state tried a similar approach when it created the Hawaii Health Systems Corp….

PDF: Public poll on Honolulu International Airport

read … Adding more government doesn’t fly

Ige still considering HCDA picks

SA: …how the Council created its lists was muddled.

Under a 2014 amendment to state law, the Council became responsible for providing the governor with choices for three of HCDA’s nine board seats as a way to reduce the governor’s control over shaping the board that oversees development in an area of concentrated high-rise construction.

Ige made his initial appointments to the board in 2015. Now two of these seats are up for refilling because the terms of Steve Scott and Jason Okuhama expire June 30. By law, one seat must be filled by the owner of a small business in Kakaako, and one must be filled by a Kakaako resident.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine was in charge of taking nominations as chairwoman of the Zoning and Housing Committee.

At a March 22 Council meeting at which three candidates for each seat were selected, Pine recommended that Scott, who owns slipper maker Scott Hawaii, not be selected because he was nominated by only one Council member while three other candidates were nominated by two Council members.

Pine later said there were other factors including not hearing from fellow Council members that Scott was an important candidate. Pine also said Scott didn’t meet with her in person, though Scott said he tried to arrange a meeting.

Council members voted 5-4 to accept Pine’s recommended list. During the meeting, two Council members who voted with Pine, Ikaika Anderson and Brandon Elefante, called the process fair. Yet two others, Trevor Ozawa and Ernest Martin, said they weren’t clear on how Pine was treating nominations. The two Council members representing Kakaako, Carol Fukunaga and Ann Kobayashi, said they were disappointed by Pine’s handling of the nominating process….

IM: O`ahu: Kalaeloa Electric Grid for Sale

read … Ige still considering HCDA picks

Will President Donald J Trump Liberate Hawaii, Am Samoa, and Guam from Obama Legacy Tuna Monuments

CB: …Officials representing American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas want the monument designations to be repealed or at least have the restrictions relaxed.

They have been joined in their efforts by the Honolulu-based Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils nationwide. Wespac is an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency that oversees environmental protection of the ocean.

Wespac officials, including Executive Director Kitty Simonds and Council Chair Edwin Ebisui Jr., are urging President Donald Trump to remove fishing prohibitions within the marine monuments and re-establish the councils’ supervision of the fisheries. They say that limiting access in huge swaths of the ocean is hurting local fishermen and Americans who work in the fishing industry without significantly improving the prospects for the wildlife the preserve is intended to protect.

Simonds and Ebisui made a presentation Feb. 28 in Virginia during a meeting of the Council Coordination Committee, which includes the leaders of each regional fishery council….

Simonds said in a March 23 release that the governors of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas have already sent similar requests to the president.

read … Liberator of the Pacific?

Pandering to Dem Base: Legislators Consider More Fake Sanctuary State Resolutions

CB: …So far, House lawmakers have adopted House Resolution 76, declaring Hawaii as “a hookipa (welcoming) state.”

Two other measures are also still in the works: House Concurrent Resolution 125 — virtually a carbon copy of HR 76 — will be heard by the Senate judiciary committee next week, and Senate Concurrent Resolution 131 is waiting for a hearing in two House committees.

All three measures urge state and county officials to move away from embracing Trump’s harsh rhetoric against immigrants, arguing that Hawaii’s aloha spirit should reflect how immigrants are treated in the islands.

The measures stop short of explicitly declaring Hawaii or any of its counties a “sanctuary.”

Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, who introduced HR 76 and HCR 125, says her resolutions are more about being “anti-commandeering” — to insist that local communities can’t be coerced into performing federal functions under a 10th Amendment principle….

Rep. Andria Tupola, a Republican who leads the House minority caucus, opposes the resolutions on the grounds that they wade dangerously into public safety decisions that should be left up to the discretion of law enforcement officials.

“It is our job as legislators to create law; it is the job of law enforcement to enforce law,” said Tupola, who has voted against both HR 76 and HCR 125. “So I feel like we’re overstepping our bounds by telling law enforcement what they should or shouldn’t do.”

April 16, 2017:  Hawaii Poll: 48% Support Trump Travel ban

read … Empty Talk

3% of State’s Natural Gas to Come from Sewage

SA: Hawaii Gas said in its application the money would be used to purchase biogas purification equipment and construct approximately a mile of new pipeline to connect the purification system to Hawaii Gas’ existing synthetic natural gas pipeline….

The facility would make Hawaii Gas’ fuel supply 5 percent renewable. The amount of renewable energy the gas currently has in its fuel portfolio is just higher than 2 percent….

read … State consumer advocate backs biogas plan

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