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Tuesday, December 23, 2014
December 23, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:54 PM :: 4620 Views

Single Payer Collapses in Vermont--Is David Ige Listening?

Full Text: Ige Sends Budget to Legislature

Hope or Despair for Hawaii's 'Ohana?

Troubled Obamacare vendor awarded new Hawaii contract

Commuter-Adjusted Daytime Population on Oahu

Briefing: Doctors Discuss Challenge of Working With Medicaid

PMA Requests Federal Mediation in West Coast Longshore Negotiations

HART advertises first package of rail station contracts

Video: Meet Hawaii's New Republican House Members

Ige on Tax Increase: "Sometimes things happen"

SA: ..."I'm committed to working with the Legislature so there's no surprises," Ige said. "I cannot see a situation where I think a tax increase would be warranted in this session, but I've been involved long enough to know that sometimes things happen."

Ige said he would pursue tax modernization strategies in an effort to collect unpaid taxes and close loopholes that may be allowing some taxes to go uncollected. He said the state could potentially recoup "hundreds of millions" in revenues without increasing taxes.

"I do believe that we need to make investments in tax modernization in the Department of Taxation in collecting taxes already owed from taxpayers," Ige said. "We're going to be focusing on that before we look at any broad-based tax increases."

Sen. Jill Tokuda, the new chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, applauded Ige's prudent approach in his first budget.

"I think that you'd have to start to look at creative ways to start to raise and diversify revenues," Tokuda (D, Kai­lua-Kane­ohe) said. "I don't think anyone comes into this wanting to, off the bat, start to raise taxes."

Ige continually acknowledged there would be little in the way of new initiatives.

"The fiscal reality is that there isn't a whole lot of money," Ige said. "Past decisions made are driving the bulk of the increase."

Ige said there were no funds set aside for the much-maligned Hawaii Health Connector, the state's marketplace for insurance established under the federal Affordable Care Act. He said the Health Connector might still be identified as a priority after further consultation with new Cabinet members.

"We've had some preliminary discussions about the Health Connector, but we'll be working through that," Ige said. "As we get a more specific transition plan, then we would make the request for whatever funds would be required."

The budget remained status quo for community hospitals, but Ige said new leadership at the state hospital system, coupled with new directors at the departments of Health and Human Services, could bring about change.

"This budget includes the same general fund subsidy for the hospital system, so it is clearly less than what they are asking for," Ige said. "It really is about getting new leadership on board — fresh eyes will be looking at the challenges of providing quality health care in rural communities."

Ige also noted that the budget did not include any requests from the University of Hawaii, except for the pay raises negotiated for faculty last summer....

read ... No new Taxes?

Ige Proposes Internet Sales Tax: $26B budget boosts Spending 8%

KHON: “The four and eight percent increase really is about obligations made previously that we need to fulfill,” he said.

The budget calls for $12.6 billion for fiscal year 2016, a four percent increase from the current budget, and $13.1 billion for the following year, an eight percent increase.

Among the significant general fund requests are $63 million for Department of Education and University of Hawaii capital improvement projects, $9 million for increased utility costs to the DOE, and more than $165 million for retirement benefit payments.

Ige adds that the state currently has the reserve to cover these costs.

“The fact that we did have a healthy balance does allow us to manage the financial plan in a way where we’re not looking at layoffs or (reduction-in-force), but that also means that there’s little fund available for new initiatives or new programs.”

The Governor did add there’s money out there if we’re willing to invest in tax modernization, going after taxes owed to the state that are not being collected, and even taxes on out-of-state internet sales.

“I do believe that it can generate hundreds of millions of dollars if we can collect the taxes already owed,” he said.

read ... $26B

Ige Budget leaves HHSC $48M in Red

KITV: Ige’s budget funds state hospitals within the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation at current levels, even though the system is $48 million in the red. However, the governor’s spending plan does not provide additional funds for the Hawaii Health Connector, or University of Hawaii Athletics, both of which are strapped for additional funds.

Ige said he will put his ‘finger print’ on the budget process once the state Legislature convenes on the third Wednesday in January. But, the governor said not to expect any big ticket items due to the state’s current financial picture.

read ... HHSC Question

Star-Adv Editors Complain they Have a Hard time Getting Marijuana--Want 26 Pot Shops Opened

SA: Hawaii, once thought to be on the vanguard of the movement to enable the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes only, now has fallen behind states such as Colorado and Washington, which have legalized it altogether. The changed landscape means most of the advocacy energy has shifted toward the goal of legalization or at least decriminalization.

But rather than rushing to follow those states, it makes more sense at this point to let them serve as the national pilot programs. Hawaii should learn whatever lessons their experience imparts. Implementation of recreational marijuana has not come without problems, not the least of which is unanticipated bad reactions to the drug infused in food products....

The Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force was created through legislative resolution in the 2014 session to ride herd on just that project. A report is due out before the convening of the 2015 Legislature, but documents posted on the task force website (www.publicpolicycenter.hawaii.edu/projects-programs/hcr48.html) show some of the issues to be resolved.

For example, the group estimates the number of patients at 13,000 and is considering a network with a ratio of one dispensary per 500 patients, according to a preliminary report ....

CB: Political Reporter Derrick DePledge Leaving Star-Advertiser -- Flees to Oregon

read ... This Explains a Lot

Reopened Kulani Prison Still 70% Empty

HNN: A Big Island prison that just reopened this summer is already struggling with delays. The Kulani Correctional Facility has room for 200 inmates, but most of the beds are still empty.

Kulani was supposed to ease overcrowding in Hawaii's prisons, making it easier to bring back inmates from the mainland. The state planned to fill the facility in five months, but officials now expect the process to take one year.

"That was the plan and it turns out that was somewhat ambitious," said Ted Sakai, director of the Public Safety Department.

Public safety officials said 59 men are housed at the prison. Hawaii News Now has learned that the main slowdown is due to inmates with medical issues who can't be placed at Kulani because of the facility's location and altitude.

"Any inmates with more serious conditions are not able to go there because of the distance from Kulani to the nearest emergency room. I believe it's 40 minutes away," explained Sakai.

Another problem involves correctional officers frequently calling in sick. Staff shortages have led to canceled inmate visits about once a month....

15 of the 91 staff positions are vacant, including four jobs for correctional officers, according to public safety officials.

"We're still looking for some substance abuse counselors. Those positions aren't filled. They've proven to be more difficult to fill than originally anticipated," said Sakai.

The state expects to transfer 50 to 100 inmates to Kulani in January from the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona. Vocational training should also start next month, followed by a sex offender treatment program in February....

read ... Department of Corrections

Old Boy Continuity: Takai Makes Hanabusa's Chief of Staff His Own

PR: Long-time public policy executive Rod Tanonaka has been selected as chief of staff for U.S. Rep.-elect Mark Takai.

Tanonaka has been serving in the same capacity for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who Takai will succeed in office, a Takai spokesman said in a news release Monday.

Tanonaka, who will be based in Hawaii, has known Takai since their days together at the University of Hawaii....

read ... Old Boy Continuity

Tax Credit Crowd Wants NextEra Deal

SA: ...If properly managed, this deal could give us a new chapter in clean energy and patch up our fragmentation....

The first order of business is to ready the PUC for the task. Gov. David Ige must either reappoint Mina Morita or appoint a new commissioner and a chairman as soon as possible. The State must also allow new PUC positions to stem the departure of staff and expertise from the commission.

In the docket to approve the deal, the PUC can approve, disapprove or approve with conditions. In doing so, the PUC should treat the matter as new business, avoid old enmities and recognize the long-term consequences of its actions.

A free-for-all at the PUC, where knee-jerk naysayers set the agenda, won't be productive. The PUC should work to move the docket along; the sooner it is decided, the better it will be for the initiative. Delay is not good management....

Come to the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum's Legislative Briefing at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Capitol Auditorium. It's open to the public, free, and there is no need to register....

IM: Nextera’s Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP suit)

read ... 'Green' Energy

Sidewalks in Chinatown cleared of homeless

KITV: The sidewalks along Nuuanu Avenue looked cleaner, but it had nothing to do with the rain that swept over the state.

Instead, police swept through the streets, letting residents know they could not camp out on the sidewalks between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m....

Keeping the walkways clear during business hours is expected to be a boost to stores and shops in Chinatown. That is especially important during the busy holiday shopping season.

"I'm happy to see something being done. I think it will alleviate a lot of the problems we have. We do have a tough time with blocked sidewalks and sanitation issues. I think it will be nice to have our customers come down here and not have to walk in the streets," said Missy Owens-Mull, with Owens & Co.

"It will make our town more cleaner, and people won't be afraid of it. They will just come down and do some shopping," said Say.

While the sidewalks may be cleaner during the day, the homeless will be able to return at night....

Some business owners worry that Chinatown's reputation will remain as a dirty, smelly or unsafe place -- long after the homeless are gone....

SA: Streets Lose Urine Smell

read ... Cleared

Thai workers on Hawaii farms may not get any of $8.7M award

KHON: A federal judge has ruled that a California-based labor contractor must pay $8.7 million in damages to Thai workers who were exploited while working at Hawaii farms, but it’s not clear whether any of them will get the money.

Mordechai Orian, former president of Global Horizons, said Monday that the Los Angeles company is no longer in business and has no way to pay.

“We will fight this ridiculous decision,” he said, calling the amount “insane.”

Orian continued to deny workers were mistreated....

read ... All for Nothing

Forbes: Bank of Hawaii Second Best in USA

F: Bank of Hawaii moves up three spots to rank second this year. The $15 billion bank remained very conservative in its underwriting strategy during the housing bubble and maintains low levels of NPLs. Bank of Hawaii ranked up the best return on equity over the last 12 months of any bank at 15.5%.

read ... America's Best And Worst Banks 2015

Hawaii Dominates List of US Most Expensive Air Routes

TP: ...Among U.S. routes, flying 8,700 miles from Alabama's Huntsville International Airport to Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is a surefire way to drain your bank account, with a round-trip economy ticket running roughly $1,225.

What's more, destinations in Hawaii account for nine of the top 10 most expensive U.S. routes. Maui's Kahului Airport makes four appearances in the top 10, while HNL accounts for three of the top four.

Oddly enough, flying from IAH to Bismarck Municipal Airport in North Dakota will cost $1,189, making it the sixth most expensive U.S. route and the only one in the top 10 that doesn't include Hawaii.

Click here to view the top 10 most expensive international and domestic routes courtesy of Yahoo Travel.

read ... 10 Most Expensive

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