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Sunday, November 8, 2009
November 8, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:20 PM :: 12561 Views

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Earlier primary voting considered

Hawaii election officials are considering asking the Legislature to move up the state's primary date to comply with a new federal law designed to protect the voting rights of American troops and civilians overseas, Hawaii's top elections officer said.

Under the federal statute, signed by President Barack Obama on Oct. 28, ballots must be sent to overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.

Hawaii's 2010 primary is scheduled for Sept. 18 -- 45 days before the Nov. 2 general election. But general election ballots can't be printed until the winners of the primary are certified, usually days or weeks after voting ends.

It can take many days for absentee ballots to make their way through foreign and U.S. military mail systems and arrive in Hawaii. And some foreign governments don't include dates on their postmarks, state Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin said last week.

(Not only is it important to ensure the voting rights of deployed military personnel -- BUT ALSO Hawaii's latest-in-the-nation primary is a key element supporting the one-party system.  Because most of the election season is reserved for the Primary contests, the focus is on Primary campaigns between Democrats often leaving the multi-party General Election contest as an afterthought.  Earlier Primaries will strengthen the role of competing political parties.  More on this later.) 

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HGEA Calls for tax hike piling on reluctant lawmakers

But state leaders fear that even a 1 percentage point increase in the general excise tax would not help, and they doubt a tax increase would survive a veto by Gov. Linda Lingle....

Last week, the state's largest union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, told its members that a tax increase was the best way to solve the state's financial problems.

"A broader solution to the revenue shortfall is needed to mitigate the impact of furloughs and layoffs in all departments, including the Department of Education," the HGEA memo said, adding that it didn't approve of tapping state special funds.

Some legislative leaders are trying to douse calls for a tax increase, while still acknowledging that the state has run out of money....

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, noted that the Senate last year passed a 1 percentage point GET increase, but added so many exemptions to make it politically palatable that it would raise only about $190 million a year. The proposal did not get through House last session, but is still an option for the 2010 session, which starts in January. A 1 percentage point increase would bring the tax to 5 percent on the neighbor islands and 5.5 percent on Oahu....

"If we are poised to pass it (a GET increase) on final reading and we have exhausted all other plans -- I think we (I) would be in bad shape (on Election Day)," Hanabusa said in an interview.

Hanabusa warned, however, that the state is running out of answers, noting that the public is already complaining about the furloughs.

"I think we are at a point where I don't know what else can be cut out of state services. Just look at the outcry now," Hanabusa said.  (Here are some suggestions: waste, fraud, corruption, and crony contracting.)

Say suggested that next year the Legislature may have to restructure taxes, including taking the hotel room tax back from the counties and perhaps also taking Honolulu's tax money collected for rail transit.  (Looks like Mufi will be in bad shape, too.) 

Noting that the four counties decided not to furlough workers this year and also continued to pay a larger percentage of the county workers' medical insurance, Say said the counties should have calculated better.

"Some of the legislators from Oahu are very disturbed because the counties didn't implement the furloughs. Why didn't they spread the pain out?" Say said.  (They were busy following Mufi around like little puppies.)

(The word "education" occurs nowhere in this article.)

TOTALLY RELATED: HGEA vs HSTA: The coming legislative budget crisis , Furloughs: Advertiser sides with “sustainability” billionaires against “Save our Sports” , 10% Unemployment Shows Objective Failure of Obama Stimulus

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Hawaii state tax squad zeroes in on cash-only businesses

The initiative allows the state Department of Taxation to crack down on those who may be operating so-called "cash-economy" businesses, such as many lunch wagons, some mom-and-pop operations, at swap meets and farmers markets or even the Girl Scouts.


Act 134, which took effect during the summer, also authorizes tax officials to get warrants and examine business records without notice. The tax department is now trying to fill several positions in its new Special Enforcement Section.

(The Legislature doesn't miss a trick!)

The goal of the new tax program is to close an estimated $2 billion "tax gap," the amount of unreported and unpaid taxes annually statewide. About half that amount is attributed to the cash economy, said state tax Director Kurt Kawafuchi.

($2B / 0.045 = $44.4B = $3667 per person or $14,667 for a family of four every year.  Did you collect or pay GE tax when you sold your used car to a private party last year?  If not there's a hungry crony whose got a bone to pick with YOU.) 

Also among those testifying against the measure was former state tax Director Ray Kamikawa, who said the initiative was an inefficient use of limited state resources.

"It calls for hirings and expenditures and resources that may not be justified by the collections," Kamikawa said. "The target group is probably smaller mom-and-pop operations where collection yields tend to to be smaller and would not support the outlay of resources and hiring that will be necessary to make the program meaningful.

"The only guys that have money — big money — are these drug dealers, but they've got guns they're going to shoot back."  (And they have friends in elected office....)

MAUI NEWS: Finance officials tightening enforcement

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State welfare payouts drop as numbers of needy grow

Monthly payments to poor, temporarily disabled people fell by one-third last week, from $450 to $300, because more people are drawing benefits from the same pool of money.

Legislators suggested using money saved in the state's Rainy Day Fund to restore the payments to their previous levels. The latest figures show there's about $60 million in the fund, which is paid into by tobacco lawsuit settlement money.

Lawmakers budgeted about $21 million for general assistance, but that money wouldn't last for the remainder of the fiscal year unless the payments were decreased, according to the Department of Human Services. The number of people in the program has risen from 3,955 in 2007 to 4,458 last year and just over 5,000 currently.

TOTALLY RELATED: HGEA vs HSTA: The coming legislative budget crisis ... and here are a couple of billionaires on "welfare" ... Furloughs: Advertiser sides with “sustainability” billionaires against “Save our Sports”

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Failures tarnish Hawaii program to rehabilitate offenders

Most recently, probationer Aaron Susa was charged with murdering New Mexico tourist Bryanna Antone Oct. 2, less than a day after he completed his latest stay in prison for violating the rules of Project HOPE.

Another HOPE probationer, Corbit K. Ahn, is awaiting trial on charges that he murdered teenager Iris Rodrigues-Kaikana Aug. 24 and left her nude body in a dirt alley in Kalihi.

Hawaii's Opportunity for Probation with Enforcement is aimed at reducing criminal behavior by close supervision of probationers and promises of immediate arrest and incarceration for program violations.

But the recent murders of two young women allegedly committed by HOPE probationers has focused new attention on the HOPE program.

Circuit Judge Steven Alm, who created HOPE, said he and other judges can't discuss specific cases but pointed out that the program deals with "high risk" probationers who are most at risk for re-offending.

(That's the problem.  HOPE should be for lower-risk probationers and prison should be for high risk probationers.  Hawaii still has a lot of Waihee-era judges to winnow out.  This should be a key issue in the Gubernatorial race.)

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$25M agreement settles lawsuits over Kauai dam tragedy

In one of the largest legal settlements in Hawaii in recent years, the families of seven people killed in the Kaloko Dam tragedy and several Kauai property owners will receive $25 million in an out-of court settlement, The Advertiser has learned. (no source named) ...

The money will be paid by retired car dealer Jimmy Pflueger, the state of Hawaii, Kauai County, current and former owners of the land under the dam and their insurers, several people familiar with the deal said.

Insurers, engineering firms and contractors — some paying as little as $100,000 — also will contribute to the settlement, which resolves more than half a dozen lawsuits stemming from the March 14, 2006, disaster. (Somebody has seen the documents, or part of them.  And with that many parties, a leak is inevitable.)

The report also faulted Kaua'i County for failing to act on grading violations by Pflueger and criticized Kilauea Irrigation Co. for inadequate maintenance of the irrigation system that fed into the Kaloko Reservoir.  (Question for Kusaka: What is $9000 divided by 8?)

However, the state's liability was greatly reduced due to a ruling in April that narrowed the grounds on which the state could be sued.

The state attorney general's office and Kaua'i county officials have declined to publicly disclose what they are paying in the settlement, which has not yet been finalized by Kauai Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe....

The Advertiser has made a request for the records under the state's open records law, saying the public is entitled to know the state's and Kauai County's portion of the settlement.

"We cannot imagine any scenario or basis in law that would keep the state's settlement portion confidential since public funds are being used in this case," said Advertiser Editor Mark Platte.  "Please know that we are willing to pursue all legal channels to find out the sum of taxpayer money being used in this case, as we believe the public has a vested interest in the outcome."

KGI: Settlement numbers should be made public

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Reduced land fund could be part of Hawaii County charter

HILO -- Hawaii County's 2 percent land fund would be downsized to 0.5 percent as part of a county Charter Commission proposal, but it could become part of the county's charter, protecting it from raids by the administration.
The commission, which meets every 10 years, voted Friday to forward the reduced open land fund to a final hearing in preparation for the 2010 ballot.

In other action, the commission deadlocked 4-4, effectively killing four-year terms for county council members.  It also balked at creating a new county department of agriculture and energy, instead instructing the county Department of Research and Development to work toward putting more emphasis on those programs under its current structure.

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WHT: Saluting American Valor--Honolulu's Amerine led highly decorated unit in Afghanistan

The Taliban assault force rolled out of a mountain pass on Nov. 16, 2001, about 1,000 fighters headed toward a strategic town in south-central Afghanistan that had booted out local Taliban leaders.

From a ridge outside Tarin Kowt, capital of Oruzgan province, a 10-man U.S. Special Forces team, accompanied by a few dozen guerrillas and commanded by Capt. Jason Amerine, directed Navy F-18 air strikes against the approaching enemy convoy.

The day would be a roller coaster ride, one that would test Amerine's skills and emotions.

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