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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
October 22, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:47 PM :: 4486 Views

Ige on Housing? More of the Same

S.567: Schatz Proposes Largest Tax Hike in US History

Business Development Counselors Rank Hawaii Business Environment

Matson to pay $1 million for Honolulu molasses spill under plea agreement

Hawaii DoE Presents Next Biennium Budget--Unions Take $231M Bite

BoE: Matayoshi No Longer 'Exceptional'

Gay Marriage Produces No Growth in LGBT Tourism

TC: ...several operators are reporting that the much-anticipated boom of the gay destination wedding market in Hawaii hasn't exactly unfolded as anticipated. A University of Hawaii researcher said in November of last year that a law to allow same-sex marriage in Hawaii was expected to boost tourism there by $217 million over the next three years.

But operators are simply not seeing it.  (Yup.  The gay activists were lying.  Quick IQ test: Are you surprised?)

“In our opinion, there hasn’t really been any significant growth in this market,” says Richards. “We just have not seen it. It could be doing well for other people as Hawaii in general is just such a huge wedding destination, but we specifically are not seeing a major pickup in this segment.”

And Joelle Arriola, Classic Vacations’ product director for Hawaii and South Pacific, agrees.  “There really hasn't been much growth in the last year in the LGBT market as a whole,” says Arriola....

July 2013:  $217M: Fake Bribe Offered to Hawaii for Fake ‘Marriage’

read ... It Was All Hype

Polls Show Governor's Race Within Margin of Error

MW: Website RealClearPolitics’ average of the three most recently published polls on Hawaii’s gubernatorial election has David Ige at 41.3 percent, Duke Aiona at 37.7, and Mufi Hannemann at 9.

All three of those polls, however, were conducted in September. Since then, Ige, Aiona and Hannemann have participated in approximately half of 14 scheduled debates or forums, at least four of which have been televised. That unusually high number of common appearances has to have moved poll numbers.

That, and negative advertising. For weeks now, negative television ads and mailers by PACs supportive of Republican Aiona have been marrying Ige to the unpopular Abercrombie. At the same time, PACs supportive of Ige have coupled Aiona with Linda Lingle and furlough Fridays.

read ... Pre-Negative

Health Connector Spent $204.3M to Distribute $4.3M Tax Credits

SA: Hawai‘i Health Connector officials estimate the average household that applied for financial assistance through the state exchange received a tax credit of approximately $85 on their monthly premium.

For individuals who were covered the entire year, this could total more than $1,000 in savings. About 4,300 individuals signed up for so-called advanced premium tax credits, available only through the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama­care.

Hawaii residents might see as much as $4.3 million in savings thanks to the Affordable Care Act, but the total amount of tax credits can be calculated only after individuals file their tax returns in 2015, the Connector said.

The Connector said 757 employers have signed up, and more than 1,035 employees have purchased insurance through the small-business program. It is not clear how much of a tax break companies will get for purchasing through the exchange....

enrolling just 10,746 residents....It received $204.3 million in federal grants to build and operate the health insurance marketplace.

The Connector has also helped funnel more than 43,000 people to Medicaid, the state insurance program for low-income residents.

The Connector, which currently has 29 full-time workers, hasn't disclosed its plan to keep operations afloat once its federal funds dry up at the end of 2015. It is charging a 2 percent issuer fee on plans sold on the exchange. The Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for operations in the first half of next year.

The organization has a tough road ahead in garnering community support, with only two health insurers, Hawaii Medical Service Association and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, participating on the Connector.

HMSA recently announced it was pulling out of the small-business portion of the exchange, and all gubernatorial candidates have been critical of the Connector.

read ... Nobody Wants Obamacare

Out of Control School Lunch, Transportation Programs Behind $19M Budget Request

SA: A 2009 state law requires the department to set meal prices at a level "not less than half" the cost of preparing the meal. But the DOE hasn't raised prices since 2011.

Under current prices, elementary students pay $2.25 for lunch, and high-schoolers are charged $2.50. The cost is 40 cents for students whose families qualify for reduced-price meals. (A family of three, for example, cannot earn more than $42,106 a year to qualify for the reduced rate, while a family of three earning $29,588 or less qualifies for free meals.)

About 47 percent of public school children qualify for free or reduced lunch. The federal government reimburses the state up to $3.55 for free lunches served and up to $3.15 for reduced-priced lunches served.

BOE Chairman Don Hor­ner pointed out that the department has yet to implement recommendations made last year in an internal audit that found an "unacceptable" lack of oversight, monitoring and accountability of the food services program.

"If we ask for additional revenue, we also need to hold ourselves accountable to ensure that we're efficiently managing those revenues," Hor­ner said. "Based on that audit, we don't have a full handle on our food service expenses."

Meanwhile, the DOE's student transportation branch — which is being overhauled after being singled out in multiple audits for escalating costs — is facing a $9.3 million shortfall this year.

The school bus program — expected to cost $65.4 million this year — serves about 39,000 general-education students in addition to free curb-to-curb service required for about 4,000 special-education students.

Program costs have dropped from a high of nearly $75 million in 2012, the year a state auditor's report found general funds spent on student transportation had nearly tripled over the preceding five years.

The auditor concluded the DOE had essentially lost control of its school bus program, failing to address anti-competitive behavior among contractors and allowing costs to dramatically increase.

read ... Out of Control Spending

Counties, DHHL Duke it out over Affordable Housing Credits

SA: ...lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1268 almost unanimously, but inserted language to repeal the law June 30, 2015. That bill became Act 141....

Earlier this year five bills were introduced with DHHL support to extend or make permanent Act 141. None passed.

"Since Act 141 was passed by the Legislature in 2009, this program has been very successful for DHHL," Jobie Masa­ga­tani, DHHL director, said in written testimony.

George Atta, director of Hono­lulu's Department of Planning and Permitting, urged lawmakers to repeal Act 141.

"It undermines the ability of the counties to provide new affordable housing to all its residents within county-defined income need groups, on a time schedule commiserate with private sector construction, and in geographic areas where the counties believe affordable housing is warranted," he said in written testimony. "The goal should not be to redirect the resources and/or opportunities from one branch of government at the expense of another."

Of the five bills, one that would permanently extend Act 141, House Bill 2286, advanced through seven House and Senate committee hearings but expired on the hectic final evening of this year's legislative session in April when conference committees ran out of time to pass many bills.

DHHL intends to work with the next governor to introduce another bill next year that would continue the affordable-housing credit program, according to agency spokes­man Puni­aloha Chee.

Of the 1,296 credits given to DHHL to date, the City and County of Hono­lulu issued the most — 729 — followed by 479 from Maui County and 88 from Hawaii County. Kauai County has not issued any credits. Hono­lulu officials also said they expect to issue roughly 600 more credits shortly.

read ... Printing Money

Hawaii County Council Considers More Tax Hikes

HTH: The bills came out of the Real Property Tax Stakeholders Task Force, a group that has been meeting regularly most of the year to help implement 40 recommendations contained in a 99-page March 2012 report by the International Association of Assessing Officers. The task force hosted its last meeting Monday.

The council gave its preliminary approval last Wednesday to three bills:

• Bill 71 reduces from three years to two years the time a property owner is delinquent in paying property taxes before the county can start foreclosure actions. The council passed the measure on first reading by a 5-3 vote, with Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi and Puna Councilmen Greggor Ilagan and Zendo Kern voting no.

• Bill 103 requires that a person taking a property tax exemption because they are blind, deaf or totally disabled have as their primary residence the home for which they are taking the property exemption. It passed first reading 8-0 with Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter absent.

• Bill 292 requires property owners claiming the homeowners exemption file a Hawaii state tax return to prove they are full-time residents. The county won’t see the tax return, but will compare the list of homeowners taking the exemption against the state list of taxpayers. It passed first reading 8-0 with Poindexter absent.

The bills are scheduled to be taken up when the council meets Nov. 7 in Hilo.

read ... Tax Hikes

Star-Adv Endorses Aaron Johanson for House 31

SA: 31st District (Fort Shafter-Moanalua Gardens-Aliamanu): Republican Aaron Ling Johanson is among the GOP's brightest prospects in a Democrat-dominated state that needs a vibrant, multiparty system. A product of Moanalua's public schools who went on to earn a degree from Yale University, Johanson's common-sense approach is welcome in the House, to which he was first elected in 2010. He's risen to be minority leader, is Finance vice chairman and sits on the Labor and Public Employment and Legislative Management committees. Focused on lowering Hawaii's cost of living, he advocates broad-based state income tax relief for senior citizens, low-income individuals, the middle class and small businesses. Challenger Lei Sharsh, a Democrat, is a behavioral health specialist for the Department of Education who advocates stricter laws against sex offenders.

read ... One Republican Allowed

PRP super PAC says it 'accidentally' failed to list $86,000 that paid for mailers

SA: Izumi-Nitao, in her filing, said the complaint was filed after her office received anonymously Sept. 5 four 2012 campaign mailers that supported then-state Sen. Carol Fuku­naga's successful special election campaign for the vacant Hono­lulu City Council 6th District (Makiki-Downtown-Halawa Heights) seat. The commission staff reviewed the PAC's 2012 reports and found no obvious expenditures for the mailers, Izumi-Nitao's complaint said.

PRP, in response to Izumi-Nitao's query, said the expenditures in support of Fuku­naga's campaign were listed in three invoices with Connecticut-based advertising firm Mission Control Inc. But PRP PAC attorney Leroy Colombe, in his email submittal to the commission, said "It appears we missed inputting" one of the invoices, dated Oct. 11, 2012, for $86,182.69.

The invoice paid for a 74,431-piece mailer identified as "Ino­uye" on behalf of Caldwell at a cost of $44,264.29; two 23,003-piece mailers for Fuku­naga at a cost of $32,928.20; and two 4,730-piece mailers on behalf of Hawaii County Council candidate Vale­rie Poindexter for $8,990.20.

read ... Inouye

Hawaii Family Advocates vs. United Public Workers

CB: The Christian coalition and the labor union make candidate endorsements.  They don't match.

PDF: Hawaii Family Advocates Endorsements

PDF: United Public Workers Endorsements

read ... No Surprise

Former Honolulu Advertiser Owner Charged with Child Molestation

VN: Authorities allege Thurston Twigg-Smith, 67, “inappropriately touched” a 14-year-old girl from Barnard, according to a State Police news release.

Twigg-Smith, of Barnard, will answer to the felony charge in Windsor County District Court on Nov. 18....

Twigg-Smith grew up in Hawaii in a prominent family, and moved to Barnard in 1971.

Twigg-Smith has served as chief executive officer of Persis Corp., a Hawaii-based company that founded Twin Farms, a luxury resort on Royalton Turnpike, in 1993.

According to its website, Persis once owned the largest daily newspaper in Hawaii. It now focuses on commercial real estate and private equity investments.

WHT: Bail denied for man charged in child porn case

read ... Twigg-Smith

Officer suspended after video captures game room assault

SA: A Honolulu Police Department officer captured on video assaulting people at a game room near McKinley High School has been suspended without pay, according to the Hono­lulu Police Department.

HPD spokeswoman Teresa Bell didn't know how long the officer, Vince Morre, has been suspended, but a source said his suspension is for 30 days.

Morre is assigned to the Kalihi district and has nine years of service, Bell said. She said at least one more officer is also under internal investigation because of the incident.

In a video of the assault on Hopaka Street, Morre, who is wearing plain clothes, kicks a man in the face, then throws a metal stool at the man's head, according to Myles Brei­ner, who is representing the 25-year-old man who was kicked. Morre shoves a woman before leaving the room. Two other officers in plain clothes exit the room with Morre.


read ... Suspended

20 Million Gallons of Sewage Spill on Sand Island

KHON: The city continues to clean up after Sunday’s massive wastewater spill at Sand Island.

The spill, which occurred at around 11 a.m. at the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, was triggered by a short circuit caused by a surge of wastewater during heavy rains.

While 5,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater spilled into Honolulu Harbor, the plant’s interior suffered much worse.

Honolulu’s mayor said crews have cleaned up all 20 million gallons of sewage that spilled inside the plant, and much of the plant’s power should be restored by Wednesday.

But could the city have done something to prevent it?

The mayor said it was a combination of the large tanks called clarifiers being fixed, which led to one of only two channels where sewage flows being usable when the storm hit.

As far as the cost, the mayor said the city is insured with a $75,000 deductible, so that’s likely what it will cost city taxpayers for the damage to the plant.

KITV: 20 million gallons of sewage overflows at Sand Island Waste Water Treatment Plant

read ... City could have worked harder to prevent Sand Island sewage spill

Hawaii Gas Prices Highest in USA, Slowest to Decline

F: The price of gas has fallen fastest in Missouri, down 18% to $2.77 a gallon — which is also the cheapest gas in the nation. On the flipside is Hawaii, which suffers the most expensive gasoline at $4.07 a gallon, and has also seen the smallest decrease in price during that time, just 6%.

Even when observed over such a short period of time, that relative price elasticity makes sense. Hawaii has expensive gasoline because the nearest oil fields are half an ocean away and it has just two little refineries (one of which could soon be mothballed). Hawaii’s gas price has those higher transport costs built in — costs that don’t change as quickly as oil prices do. And with less competition among suppliers, there’s little reason for wholesalers or filling stations to lower prices. The other states with the least price reductions are almost as remote: Alaska, Montana (both down 9%) and Wyoming (less than 8%).

read ... Forbes

After Wasting 20 Years and Millions of Dollars, Legislators Want Feds to Pay for Kahoolawe

CB: Public officials are wrestling with the question of whether — and how — to pursue money to remove the rest of the explosives from the island.

The political climate has vastly changed since Hawaii’s congressional delegation secured $400 million in federal funds to clean up Kahoolawe in 1993. And the island is just one of dozens of sites littered with unexploded ordnance in Hawaii, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates could take a century to clear....

As state lawmakers deliberate whether to allocate funds to help control erosion on the island and plant native vegetation, some have questioned whether it’s time to sue the Navy to get it to finish cleaning up munitions.

For now, Kahoolawe remains mostly uninhabitable, its beaches empty except for feral cats and debris that washes ashore.

Reality: Audit: Kahoolawe Money Gone After 18 years Without a Plan

read ... But Dan is Gone

Honolulu Airport 3rd Worst in N America

SIA: Honolulu’s airport is hardly the welcome to Hawaii that you might expect. A layover here is almost inevitable when visiting one of the Hawaiian Islands, and what gets travellers is that it is a basic and dull if you get stuck here for an extended period. There are only a handful of shops and restaurants, most of which close early. Some boarding gates don’t open until right before your flight, which leaves passengers roaming aimlessly in the concourse until that time. While seating can be a challenge with all the armrests and curved seats, a few long benches are a welcome relief to tired travellers. The airport does charge a fee for Wi-Fi as well, which is never particularly pleasing to travellers.

SA:  Honolulu International the third-worst airport

read ... We're Number 3

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