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Friday, May 19, 2017
May 19, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:54 PM :: 1522 Views

HB209: Sneaky Legislators Limit Usefulness of Earned Income Tax Credit

State, Counties Pass Tax Hikes off to Each Other

Which Places Pay the Most in Property Taxes?

FCC Takes Step Towards Freeing the Internet

Lawsuit against Hawaii Churches Hurts the Surrounding Community

Honolulu Rail Creates Inequality

IM: …The State Senate, controlled by Neighbor Island leaders, favor making O`ahu residents pay for rail, by expanding the use of the General Excise Tax (GET).

The House, led by O`ahu legislators, favor the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT), which would impact tourists throughout the state….

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) issued a 2017 report, “Fairness Matters: A Chart Book on Who Pays State and Local Taxes.”

Choosing to fund government largely through sales taxes affects low- and moderate-income families most since they tend to spend a larger share of their earnings on items subject to sales tax.”

According to ITEP, Hawai`i ranks number two, among all U.S. States, in taxing low- and moderate-income families. Hawai`i low to moderate income residents pay 12.8% of their income on sales tax.

Hawai`i Appleseed reported that, “Residents in Hawai`i are faced with a number of severe economic challenges to attaining and maintaining self-sufficiency. Our residents earn the lowest average-adjusted income in the country. Yet, our state has the highest cost of living in the United States.”

Hawai`i Appleseed issued a report last year, “The Story of Poverty: How Hawai`i low-income residents are facing post-recovery”.

A Ward Research poll issued in 2017 found similar results. The majority of Neighbor Island residents favored expansion of the GET to pay for rail, while the majority of O`ahu residents did not.

Tulchin Research, a nationally recognized polling firm, conducted a poll in March, 2017, and found that 49% of O`ahu voters opposed rail, while only 45% supported rail. ….

read … Honolulu Rail Creates Inequality

Saiki and Smug Millennial Caucus Take over House

CB: …Reps. Henry Aquino, Aaron Ling Johanson, Chris Lee, Mark Nakashima and Justin Woodson will serve as whips….

For the first time, he said, there are two policy leaders: Reps. Kaniela Ing of Maui and Jarrett Keohokalole of Oahu. Both are Native Hawaiian millennials whom Saiki described as “progressive” and “good thinkers.”  (Ing a thinker, LOLROTF!)

Saiki: New House Leadership Is ‘The Face Of Hawaii’  (Yes.  You have been insulted.)

read … More Entitled with Less Reason

Kaiser ready to take on county hospitals—Dramatic Improvement to be Seen Immediately

MN: Kaiser Permanente is on target to take over operations of Maui Memorial Medical Center on July 1, promising increased coverage of orthopedic and neurological surgeries in the coming months, officials said Wednesday night at the Kula Community Center.

“It is a very strong goal for everybody to do Maui work on Maui,” Chief Medical Director Dr. David Ulin said. “When the hospital has the safety and quality that you demand and we demand, those numbers will go up and I think that will happen very quickly.”….

Hahn said Kaiser plans to host job fairs, publish advertisements and heavily recruit workers once it takes over operations. Kaiser already has 600 applications, but it is hoping for many more before July, considering it will take a month to train new workers and another month for orientation, he said.

“With the gaps that we have, two months is not something that we can afford,” he said.

Maui has had an “extremely difficult time” covering orthopedic and gastroenterologist calls over the past five years, but that will soon change, Ulin said. Two orthopedic surgeons will be on board July 1 with neurological surgeons to follow…..….

read … Kaiser ready to take on county hospitals

Paying double? Public on the hook twice as HIDOT workers collect incentive some didn’t earn

KHON: A pilot worker-training program meant to save the public’s money and speed up state projects has already run into problems that may be costing you double….

There are now 165 people on the state payroll getting the multiskilled worker pay bump, which comes along with detailed prerequisites for classroom, on-the-job, and certification training. It’s all outlined in contracts between the HGEA and UPW unions and a handful of state departments: Hawaii Public Housing Authority, the Department of Transportation, and most recently, the Department of Defense at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.

View Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for: Hawaii Public Housing Authority | Hawaii Department of Transportation Landscaping Crews and Highways Division Trade Crews….

“The employer would save just by utilizing in-house staff,” Perreira said, “because they have the expertise developed and the training provided to allow for internal completion of a job.”

That’s been the case at the HPHA, where the turnaround time on public-housing fixes has been slashed, getting families in need into vacant homes more quickly. The DOD, newest to the program, reports success getting its team trained and up to speed already. (Click here to view HPHA’s full response, and view the DOD’s full response at the end of this post.)

But staff from another agency, the state Department of Transportation, came forward to Always Investigating to reveal it’s not going as smoothly for them.

“When I first talked about getting training on other equipment, they denied it, and they just pushed it aside and said just do it whatever we tell you,” one worker said.

What happened to the worker’s paycheck?

“I still received incentive pay, without the required training, classroom or on-the-job training,” the worker said. “There are a lot of workers getting the pay. You have people who are general labors in the BC02 pay grade getting a pay grade for a BC10, which would be a heavy equipment operator, yet they’re not even capable of operating the equipment.”

View a breakdown of the DOT’s landscaping crew pay rates here.

DOT said in a statement: “No one can obtain their incentive pay without obtaining or already possessing the required prerequisites within the MOU (memorandum of understanding with each union).” View the DOT’s full response here….

“For instance, when there was Tropical Storm Darby, they ended up hiring contractors because there weren’t enough state workers that were trained that can operate equipment,” the worker explained.

Bizarro Boyd: “Hawaii state government has adopted a legalistic strategy whose main aim is to minimize public employee wages.

read … Paying double? Public on the hook twice as state workers collect incentive some didn’t earn

If the State Has to pay for Rail, Why Do We Need Counties?

PBN: …In this legislative session, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of the mayor of Honolulu going hat in hand to legislators, delivering explanations and supplications. Legislators then tossed out wild ideas for how it would pay for rail, such as suddenly, passionately deciding to stick it to the visitor industry before just as suddenly dropping that idea. And wild ideas weren’t confined to rail. State players like the Hawaii State Teachers Association floated the idea of changing the state constitution itself to create a property tax to increase the Department of Education’s budget. That got shot down, but at this point, you can hardly blame state people for trying to grab at a form of taxation used to fund counties.

Rail is the single greatest expense of city government yet it’s totally in the hands of legislators. As a result, we now have an entity best described as the Hawaii State Department of the City and County of Honolulu.

Why not make it official? Let’s eliminate the expense of electing and paying mayors and city council members. Let’s eliminate the duplication of effort that adds expense and slows progress in so many areas. Do we really need both state and city government setting land use policies, for example? Why can’t the counties handle that alone? If state oversight is so important, why bother having county departments of planning and permitting? Why have duplicate departments of transportation at all? All that does is confuse us about which road belongs to which government when we need to complain about potholes. The state has, since its creation, owned a function reserved to counties in 49 other states — education. Why not apply that logic to everything?

Neighbor Island counties are unhappy after this session to see their share of the transient accommodation tax decline. That’s yet another tax the state only sort of collects for counties. The same mentality applies — the money “belongs” to whoever collects it. So ... disband all counties, problem solved! In fact, the T.A.T. ought to be something like the check Alaskans get for their fair share of that state’s oil revenue. We hear a lot of “share the wealth” talk out of local politicians all the time, so let the sharing begin! Forget counties, I want my cut of the T.A.T.! ….

read … Who needs counties?

Hawaii Co Council Passes Massive Property Tax Hike, Pretends to Oppose it

HTH: …Council members figuratively held their noses and voted 7-1 to advance the budget, if only to move it forward for what Kohala Councilman Tim Richards predicted would be a “tsunami” of amendments.

Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha voted no and Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, who had been present for the discussion, was absent for the vote because of a previously scheduled phone conference.

Kanuha made it clear he opposed property tax increases to fund the budget. The budget is based on a 6.5 percent tax increase and doubles the minimum tax from $100 to $200.

“It about seems we are taxing out our people. I’m having a hard time even trying to live in my own district,” said Kanuha, adding it’s difficult for him to justify the increases to his constituents. “If we raise taxes, they’re going to want to know what they get out of it.”

The council plans to finalize the budget next month, beginning with a special meeting June 5. The budget, once passed, goes into effect July 1….

WHT: Council advances new senior tax exemptions

read … Who Could be Fooled?

Phony allegations against Hawaii churches dangerous for all

SA: The common and constitutionally protected practice of allowing religious and community groups to rent vacant public buildings for their meetings is under attack in Hawaii’s courts. And what those courts decide could impact similar groups renting public buildings in the other 49 states.

Two atheists have sued a number of churches on Oahu that rent vacant public schools for their worship services, claiming the churches have defrauded the state government by exceeding the terms of the rental contracts.

Alliance Defending Freedom is defending two of these churches, and challenging the legitimacy of these lawsuits under the state False Claims Act.

The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals will hear the churches’ appeal on Friday….

Hawaii’s people should not suffer from this twisted misuse of their state law, and this effort to punish churches local and nationwide for meeting in public buildings.

read …  Phony allegations against Hawaii churches dangerous for all

Don’t compound GEMS failure

SA: …To date, the program has lent roughly 2 percent of the funds while $33 million in interest on the bonds is being repaid by Hawaii ratepayers via a $1.50 “Green Infrastructure Fee” on every monthly electrical bill.

Now ratepayers could be hit with another increase tied to GEMS. In a case of robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul, the state is siphoning funds from a different consumer-focused program, Hawaii Energy, to help keep GEMS afloat.

Launched in 2009, Hawaii Energy helps reduce electricity use by providing free or low-cost efficient appliances and other products to consumers and small businesses. It has saved more than 4 billion kilowatt-hours, an estimated $1 billion in energy costs, but its annual budget has been reduced by $10 million (from a previous level of $38 million), in part, to pay for GEMS.

Randy Iwase, chairman of the state Public Utilities Commission, which could increase Hawaii Energy’s budget by increasing ratepayer bills, said he’s taking a “wait-and-see” stance on the matter. He said: “For the public, the ratepayers, they have to be shown that (Hawaii Energy) is important and it works.”

While Hawaii Energy is far more successful than GEMS, ratepayers should not be saddled with a higher fee. GEMS is a flat-out failed experiment that the state government should not prop up beyond bare-bones accountability. The state also should look for any possibility to shrink the program’s scope…..

read … Don’t compound GEMS failure

SB859: Lawyers Find Way to Scuttle Workers Comp Reform

PBN: The director of legal and government affairs for the Hawaii Employers Council says an amendment to the state’s workers' compensation law could result in fewer doctors agreeing to conduct independent medical examinations on behalf of an employer.

Ryan Sanada told Pacific Business News Senate Bill 859, which would allow workers' compensation claimants to bring chaperones to an independent medical examination as well as record the session, could lead to doctors refusing to conduct IMEs…..

SB859: Text, Status

read … Lawyers Trick

HPD plagued by startling number of officer vacancies

HNN: …Police department officials say there are roughly 2,000 total officers on the force. At present, nearly 200 of those officer positions remain open, a 10-percent vacancy rate.

The state's police union president says the shortage puts our community at risk.

"On this island alone, there are approximately 1.2 million people on any given day, residents and visitors alike," said Tenari Ma'afala. "There's only 2,000 officers serving that 1.2 million people. Per eight-to-10 hour shift, we only have 500 officers out there protecting 1.2 million people. That is crazy," said Tenari Maafala….

HPD's 184th class of recruits graduated only 17 new officers during their February ceremony. There were 32 graduates in it's 183rd class, in October of 2016, and just 12 graduates in the department's 182nd class, in June of 2016.

Okimoto says recruiting remains very selective despite the shortage.

"There's 11 steps, including the background check. It's not a very easy job to get," he said. "Out of 1,000 people who take the written test, maybe 400 will pass. Then out of that 400, they go through the 11 steps and they wind up with a class of 25 to 30 people."

Ma'afala remembers a time when the police academy produced more than 50 graduates per class. Now, considering the growing nationwide and local criticism of cops, policing is a less-appealing career. …

read … Plagued

Maui: Polystyrene foam takeout container ban is approved

MN: The Maui County Council on Thursday evening unanimously passed a bill to ban the sale and use of polystyrene foam containers — a staple of takeout food eateries — throughout Maui County.

The ban, which will go into effect on Dec. 31, 2018, now heads to Mayor Alan Arakawa’s desk for his signature. On Thursday, Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone said only that administration officials have been “monitoring the discussion” of the bill…..

The ban now covers only polystyrene foam, identified as the white containers used to package takeout food and to hold coffee. Clear plastic and solid polystyrene are not included in the ban.

On Thursday, council members also tinkered with the bill and decided to omit the phrase that polystyrene “is a suspected human carcinogen.” The amendment brought by Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura narrowly passed in a 5-4 vote. Sugimura, Mike White, Robert Carroll, Stacy Crivello and Riki Hokama voted in favor (of reality) with Alika Atay, Elle Cochran, Don Guzman and Kelly King opposed (to reality).

Sugimura called for the elimination of the phrase, pointing to presentations by scientists earlier this month. One scientist said that there were no adverse health effects on humans from polystyrene…. 

KITV: “Yep, so much for "SAVE" the trees. Now, it's "SAVE THE PLASTIC". Look out TREES, your time has come around again. (Plays the JAWS theme in the back ground).”

read … It Begins

Practicing His Religion: Muslim Tries to Break into Cockpit on Honolulu-Bound Flight

HNN: …A Turkish man on board a Honolulu-bound flight tried to break into the cockpit Friday before being subdued by passengers and flight crew, who used duct tape, pillows and blankets to make sure he couldn't get out of his seat.

The incident prompted U.S. Pacific Command to scramble two F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard, which escorted the flight into Honolulu International Airport about 11:35 a.m.

The man, identified as 25-year-old Anil Uskanil, was on board AA Flight 31, which departed from Los Angeles International Airport at 8:34 a.m. local time.

The Los Angeles police said at LAX, Uskanil was involved in a separate security incident and was detained but subsequently released.

Police said the suspect went through a door from a LAX concourse that led onto an airfield ramp. He was spotted by a contractor and detained.

Airport police investigated and determined that Uskanil had been drinking. He was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing, cited and released.

The suspect subsequently got on board the American Airlines flight. Several hours in, he allegedly tried to break through the cockpit door, throwing himself up against a beverage cart as he tried to force his way into the first-class cabin.

Passengers said the man had a blanket or towel on his head, and didn't say anything as he pushed forward.

Flight attendants, an off-duty Los Angeles police officer and other passengers were able to stop the man and secure him in a seat….

"It took seconds," said Lee Lorenzen, of Orange County, Calif. "He was pushing against the cart and a bunch of guys grabbed him. They found some duct tape. There were pillows and blankets. And they taped him to his chair."

He added, "It was all over very quickly. They really deserve a medal for what they did."

AP: Muslim wanted Infidels to service him in First Class

HNN: Testing the infidels desire to submit to the Muslims, attacker was acting strangely before the flight even departed Los Angeles

read … Allah not akbar today

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