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Tuesday, March 29, 2011
March 29, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:23 AM :: 6082 Views :: Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

 

No New Taxes! Rally April 15--Kona, Hilo, Kahului

Hawaii Legislature to Honor 16 fallen Heroes

Djou: No plans to seek seat in Senate

Durbin's Flawed Islamophobia Hearing

Rep Brower: “Info Brief Your Ego”

Was Abercrombie Bragging about Secret Labor Settlement?

In a March 16 message to the people of Hawaii, the governor said: "In the last 100 days we have seen the first glimpses of what cooperation and a functioning government can do for the people of Hawaii."

He went on to list examples of his successes, from launching public-private partnerships to tackling homelessness. But the claim that caught Civil Beat's eye dealt with job creation in the state.

Abercrombie said he, "Cooperated with public sector unions to put thousands of federally funded workers back on the job." …

What he was talking about: Another Secret Labor Agreement Exposed: Paid Time Off given 4,900 UPW, HGEA members by Abercrombie Admin

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Delayed Refunds: Abercrombie could use Budget trick he derided as Phony

the Abercrombie administration is backtracking on vows not to follow Linda Lingle’s example and kick state income tax refunds into the new fiscal year to reduce this year’s deficit.

Yeah, Gov. Neil Abercrombie earlier derided Lingle’s policy and said that to follow suit would only extend the pain to taxpayers that she caused.

But the fact is that there were few reports of serious hardship caused by last year’s delay, and doing it again may be the least disruptive way to deal with a budget deficit for the remainder of this year that is suddenly more than $230 million

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Senate Ways and Means Committee considers 5% GE Tax

Members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Monday talked about resorting to an increase in the tax if they can't otherwise raise enough money or cut enough spending.

No measure raising the tax is pending, but senators could insert the increase into existing bills moving through the legislative process.

The general excise tax rate is 4 percent on neighbor islands and 4.5 percent on Oahu because of a rail transit surcharge.

A 1 percentage point increase in the tax would generate an estimated $500 million a year.

Precisely As Predicted: Abercrombie: GE Tax hike will be People's Will

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Making The Tax Increase Hidden

Are taxpayers being set up? That is what it looks like as one follows the smoke and mirrors of the state legislature as it tries to grapple with the growing budget deficit.

By now the media has turned the spotlight on how lawmakers are in the process of heaping a huge tax increase on taxpayers by playing this game of taking away general excise tax exemptions that will affect the cost of living and doing business in Hawaii. And while the media spotlight focuses on that proposal, as well as the controversial proposal to tax the pension income of retirees, little attention is being paid to a not so subtle tax increase that will hit all taxpayers in the pocketbook.

After years of warning, the folks at the state highway department are finally telling lawmakers that the state highway fund is about to go belly up without an infusion of new resources. So the administration is proposing to hike the state’s vehicle weight tax and the state motor vehicle registration fee….

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State’s Finances Grim, State Agencies Asked to Cut Spending by 10 Percent, Legislators debate excuses needed for GE Tax hike

Senators, many who have supported tax hikes this session, grilled Young for more than an hour on the administration’s plans to generate revenue without tax increases and special fund raids.

They said they have been hearing from their constituents who are opposed to any tax hikes without major cuts in government spending first.

Dela Cruz, who got Young to admit that the governor did not yet have a short term plan to boost job creation or push government programs that could bring in immediate revenue, said he could not support a General Excise Tax hike without a plan in place.

Young pointed out that the governor hasn’t offered any proposed increase in the GET, (which would impact every level of transaction of goods and services), but said that it is not out of the question.

“I think the administration remains open but we’re not at this point necessarily proposing that that is the single and only answer. It is somewhat enticing because the GET represents one single shot to address a large amount of revenues but the administration is not proposing that right now,” Young said.

Dela Cruz, who grew increasingly agitated with some of Young’s answers, said “eventually you’re going to leave us no choice” (but to raise the GET). “If you’re going to raid all the funds, and you have no plan for job creation, maybe you’re not proposing it (a GET tax hike) but you’re leaving us no choice but to come up with that.”

Slom, the only Republican in the 25-member Senate, said the state’s fiscal problems have been a long time coming and are a result of the legislature’s refusal to cut spending over decades.

RELATED: Washington Monument Gambit

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Soda tax getting another look in Hawaii

The Senate Health Committee heard from experts and physicians Monday on the health effects of sweetened beverages, especially on children.

The soda tax idea isn't pending …  But it could be reinserted into a bill ….

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie had suggested creating a soda tax — 25 cents for each container larger than 12 ounces, and 10 cents on smaller containers — raising about $40 million a year

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Senators seek specifics on Abercrombie's vow to remake government

State senators, growing impatient with the lack of budget details from Gov. Neil Abercrombie, asked yesterday when the governor plans to fulfill his campaign promise to restructure state government to help with the fiscal crunch.

At a budget hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, senators reminded Aber­crom­bie administration officials that the governor said repeatedly during the campaign last year that he would reconfigure and reprioritize government.

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But Administration Testifies in favor on more spending

"We must pass a plan with sufficient new tax revenues," Abercrombie said on the video.

"We cannot be bogged down by petty political stories of the day," he said.

His entire administration followed up yesterday with testimony before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on the budget bill. You can find their pleas for more money on the Internet (http://goo.gl/EGu8y).

CB: Clawing for the Last Dime at the Legislature

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Kouchi: What state services do you want to keep? (Peddling Tax Hikes)

Sen. Ron Kouchi says he is looking for guidance during the next two weeks in making difficult decisions on how to balance the current and future state budgets, citing the impact of the Japanese tsunami and the economic downturn.

The surgery on the budget that has been going on over the past three years is over, said Kouchi, the sole senator representing Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau in the Legislature. It is time for amputations.

“I’ve been receiving a lot of emails saying how dare you consider raising our taxes when you haven’t cut the size of government,” Kouchi said at a Lihu‘e Business Association meeting Thursday. “I don’t think there is a good awareness about just how much cutting has occurred.”

RELATED: Washington Monument Gambit

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DoE Advertiser claims cuts will end Education reform

Deep state funding reductions to education projected for the next two fiscal years will likely slow ambitious plans to boost student achievement and turn around low-performing schools, educators (sic) warn.

"We are literally turning the department upside down, inside out," said Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe. "This is not talk.”  (Yes it is.)

Diana Agor, Nana­kuli vice principal, said one of her biggest challenges as part of the school's improvement efforts is changing the mindset at Nana­kuli convincing kids that they can do well, and expecting them to perform.

"We're talking about changing a culture that has (lasted) generations. I want them to know there are so many opportunities for them. There really is only one way to go. That's up."  (And how much did that cost?)

Letter from a Waianae Teacher: Teacher: Welfare payments should be tied to children’s school performance, Waianae Teacher:  “Many teachers are fed up with the HSTA and DOE”

CB: Hawaii Children More Needy, But Fewer Social Workers At School To Help

RELATED: Washington Monument Gambit

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JAL drops one Honolulu Flight for three weeks in April

With traffic plunging in a time of crisis, Japan Airlines is slashing international capacity, and plans in April to cut back from three daily Hawaii flights to two.

On the day it emerged from bankruptcy, JAL announced it would suspend 74 weekly flights on 11 international routes. It is also cutting back flights to Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Pusan, and switching to smaller jets for flights to Guam.

The cutbacks to Shanghai and Seoul, like those to Honolulu, will be from three flights a day to two; to the other cities JAL will go from two flights a day to one. Most, including the Honolulu route, will be cut from April 6 to April 27, JAL said.

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Gaming advocates are seizing on the Tsunami panic

Gaming advocates are seizing on the panic that the crisis in Japan will drive the Hawai‘i economy back into deep recession and further deplete state revenues.

But the fact is that any gambling operation would take years to start generating significant revenue and would contribute absolutely nothing to solving our current woes.

Not to mention that gambling is a poor economic hedge against recession. Nevada, which depends more on gambling than any other state, has been one of the hardest hit. Do legislators seriously think that Japanese who are staying home as their country recovers from a devastating blow, would come if we had slot machines?

If we go there, it should be after careful consideration in calmer times — not as an opportunistic quick hit by those lacking real ideas for digging out of our economic sinkhole.

HNN: Falling tourism numbers could push state all in on poker

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Hawaii’s public financing pilot project likely to fall along with Arizona’s campaign law

Court watchers seem to agree that the Supreme Court appears poised to strike down the “equalizing payments” provision of Arizona’s campaign finance law as unconstitutional by a narrow 5-4 majority based on comments during yesterday’s oral arguments.

MORE: Supreme Court hears key campaign finance case

Hawaii has a lot riding on this case, since our pilot project in Hawaii County uses this kind of mechanism to provide extra funds to publicly funded candidates facing privately funded opponents.

(This was the law enacted to pay for a Green to defeat Guy Enriques in Hawaii Co Council Dist. 6.)

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Alexander to preach Abercrombie to Catholics

Marc Alexander, the state homelessness coordinator who is now classified as an "inactive priest," says he's not worried. But surely there will be a little squirming tonight at St. John Vianney Catholic Church maybe by a few parishioners when, a few months after he suddenly left the active ministry, he attends the Kailua church's town-hall meeting on homelessness.

St. John's is where Alexander was ordained some 25 years ago, where he once served as associate pastor before moving up the ladder to the No. 2 post, vicar general for the Honolulu diocese.

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“More Federal Funds” Ecos now claim “$10s of Millions in Tsunami damage” to NW Hawaiian Isles

KALAELOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - An initial assessment of damage at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) shows the tsunami that hit late on the evening of March 10 and early in the morning on March 11 did "tens of millions" of dollars in damage to infrastructure.  (What infrastructure?  Bird nests?  Are taxpayers going to pay to undo a natural event in the natural world?)

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Honolulu City Council Chairman: 'Don't Tell Me I'm a Whore'

Honolulu City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia is defending his integrity after a TV station revealed a possible conflict of interest.

"Don't tell me I'm a whore and getting paid off and I'll do anything for rail," Garcia told Civil Beat Monday. Garcia was referring to his role on the City Council and his $60,000-a-year job as executive director of the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, first reported last week by KITV's Daryl Huff….

Garcia, 54, once chairman of the Transportation Committee, took the chamber on as a client in 2009. He says he understands why people are asking questions now. He said he opted to disclose the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce as a client even though the city's Ethics Commission chairman told him it wasn't necessary.

"(Ethics Commissioner Chuck) Totto came to me and says, 'You know you're not required under the law to disclose this.'"

"I can't speak to anything, specifically, regarding Council member Garcia right now," Totto told Civil Beat on Monday. "That would be inappropriate for me to do that."

KITV: Massive Shopping Center Planned For Kapolei

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Carlisle’s Roads Nominee is stockholder, employee of Contractor CH2M Hill—But Councilmembers approve anyway

City Council member Romy Cachola cautioned the mayor's nominee to lead the Facility and Maintenance Department, Wesley Chun, about conflicts of interest.

Chun's financial disclosure to the city shows he owns tens of thousands of dollars worth of stock in a CH2M Hill, an engineering firm that does business with the city.

"Officially, my status is that I'm still officially an employee... on a leave of absence," Chun said during a Public Works and Sustainability Committee meeting this morning. "We worked out together that upon confirmation I will officially resign from the company and sell my stocks."

"Your former employer has a lot of contracts with the city," Cachola said. "Financially, there lies the conflict... We'll be watching you."

(Meanwhile they don’t want to get on the wrong side of the guy who doles out the CIP.)

RELATED: Road to Riches: Overtime at City Road Division

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Berg, Anderson: Counties being ‘robbed’, State ‘skimming’ TAT

City Council member Tom Berg is introducing a resolution that urges the state to revisit how much of the GET surcharge it keeps as a processing fee. Berg said the state is keeping 10 percent, which he says is more than it needs for processing.

"This skimming off the top is unjust and unwarranted," Berg said. "They are acting in bad faith ... The state's profiteering off the rail tax."

Berg said he feels so passionately about the issue that there are certain adjectives he wouldn't use in the formal council setting. City Council member Ikaika Anderson calls it theft on the part of the state.

"It's my firm belief that we are actually getting robbed by the Legislature," Anderson said. "We're simply getting robbed and our taxpayers are getting robbed. ... I'm hopeful we can find folks across the street who agree with us."

Resolution 11-91 reads: "The Council finds it unconscionable that the State annually keeps millions of dollars of county surcharge proceeds to reimburse itself for costs related to administering the surcharge which are far less than the ten percent retained by the State."

It calls for an audit to show the amount it costs for the state to process the GET surcharge.

Read the full resolution.

Political Radar: http://blogs.starbulletin.com/inpolitics/excess/

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Committee OKs bill to end discount on recycling fees

Tim Steinberger, city environmental serv­ices director, said the subsidy has cost the city more than $26 million since 1998, including $2.3 million last year. He said his department introduced the bill last year as it was examining cost-cutting moves while preparing its budget.

Bill 47-10 would do away with the 80 percent discount on "tipping fees" charged by the city when private companies deposit recycling residue at the landfill. The discount was first enacted in 1991 and revised in 2001 as a means to encourage recycling.

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Maui residents oppose wind farm access road plans

The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind's draft environmental impact statement.

Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.

The company, owned by Sempra Generation of San Diego, is also developing a habitat conservation plan on how to lessen its environmental impact, including on endangered species such as New­ell's shearwater, the Hawaiian petrel, the Hawaiian hoary bat and the nene.

In its draft environmental statement, Auwahi Wind said some endangered bird species might die from hitting proposed wind turbine towers and power wires and that its construction could affect 12 archaeological sites….

Several years ago, Kaheawa Wind in Maalaea devised a similar habitat conservation plan at Maalaea, developing predator-proof fencing for endangered nene. The company's turbines are now generating power.

The public may comment by April 21 on the draft environmental impact statement available for review online at the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Comments may be sent to the accepting authority, County of Maui, Planning Commission, 250 S. High St., Wai­luku 96793.

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Hawaii WWII Vets Mark Anniversary: Group Plans Celebration For Congressional Gold Medal

More than two dozen World War II veterans from the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service gathered Monday to mark the 68th anniversary of the community's goodbye to the soldiers.

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Japan nuclear isotope that reached Hawaii identified as iodine-131

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified radioactive iodine-131 as the isotope that so far has reached Hawaii from the Japanese nuclear crisis.

The EPA said radiation levels detected were “thousands of times” below that which would pose a health threat.

The EPA said it detected 0.759 picocuries per meter cubed on March 20; 1.35 picocuries on March 21; and 0.182 picocuries last Wednesday on Oahu. The EPA characterized those levels as “trace amounts.”

“The iodine result is consistent with March 21 preliminary monitor results in Hawaii of a detection of a minuscule level of an isotope consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident,” the EPA said in an e-mail. “The levels are slightly higher than what was found earlier this week on the west coast, but still thousands of times below levels of concern.”

According to the agency, the threshold for shelter and evacuation to be considered for iodine-131 begins when people are subjected to 37 million picocuries per meter cubed in one hour, or 385,000 picocuries per meter cubed for 96 hours.

RELATED: Abercrombie Administration advises Public to Avoid Ingesting Potassium Iodide

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Pearl City river considered a breeding ground for mosquitoes

The state says there are no new confirmed cases of dengue fever confirmed in Hawaii.

But in light of the four recently reported cases, Pearl City residents are troubled by a river that's generally known as a breeding ground for the insects.

KITV: Doctors: Wife Of KITV Reporter Has Dengue Fever

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SA: Stop shark tour boat violence

Hostility over shark tours off Oahu's North Shore seems to have turned violent with the likely arson of three tour boats at Haleiwa Boat Harbor. Haleiwa businesses have offered a reward for information leading to an arrest an important step, but other measures are needed to prevent further attacks.

After the first blaze just after midnight on Jan. 7, destroying a 30-foot, $225,000 North Shore Shark Adventures tour boat, a member of a North Shore group of surfers accused the shark tour boat companies of "bringing it upon themselves" because of their "total disrespect" of sharks considered aumakua, or ancestral gods, by native Hawaiians. That view is beyond disturbing.

Outright criminality stemming from the controversy over shark tours goes far beyond accusations that the tour companies feed sharks, which they deny. The companies' accusers have been tarnished by the open lawlessness "domestic terrorism," Pavsek rightly called it. Anyone with any knowledge of the arsons and any sense of pono must do the right thing: Provide information to law enforcement agencies.

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