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Thursday, February 18, 2010
February 18, 2010 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:30 PM :: 7660 Views

Tax Increase #1: Hawaii legislators consider hike in income tax, cut in tax breaks

Tax Increase #2: Hawaii excise tax would go up under bill advancing in House

Tax Increase #3: Real property taxes may rise--Counties say House bill suspending TAT funds would lead to increase

Alternative to tax increases: Selling state land a sensible idea to raise cash (Calvin Say vs OHA)

LINK>>>PEW: Hawaii “has failed to sock away any assets” to cover pension liabilities

LINK>>>House Expected to Vote Next Week on ANOTHER secret version of Akaka Bill

House Democrats Plan to Push Akaka Bill to vote Before Feb 28 – Bill’s Final Draft Secret

House Democrats plan to bring the Native Hawaiian Governing Act or the “Akaka Bill” to the House floor for a vote next week before U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, resigns February 28, to run for governor, according to Senior House Republican staff….

Steven Duffield, former policy director to U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, R-Texas, who follows this issue closely, says in all likelihood, the House Democrat leadership would push a "closed rule" through the Rules Committee, meaning the bill would be considered without any opportunity to amend and very little time to debate.

This process would mean that any version of the Akaka Bill, not necessarily the version that earlier was reported from the House Natural Resources Committee (HR 2314), can be introduced and passed that same day.

“It can -- and probably will be -- brand new language that nobody has ever seen before. The bill's opponents in Congress are completely shut out of any ongoing negotiations. There have been no hearings on any of these changes, even though Attorney General Bennett earlier requested them when he saw how this process was spinning out of control,” Duffield says….

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Special election may be delayed; commission chooses Nago

Hawai'i's special congressional election to replace outgoing Rep. Neil Abercrombie may be delayed beyond May 1 because of the time it takes to buy voting machines, deal with legal challenges and mail ballots.

Buying new voting machines could slow the process. The state must get new machines because of a ruling that it overpaid on its previous contract; $2.8 million was allocated for the new machines last year.

The elections office plans to award a voting-machine contract by March 23, but a protest from any company that loses its bid could take 45 days to resolve, Nago said. Even though the special election will be held with mail-in ballots, voting machines are still needed to count them.

Even in a best-case scenario, where all the money is made available and the voting machines are quickly purchased, it would still take time to hire temporary election workers, mail ballots and count them, said Honolulu City Clerk Bernice Mau.

"I don't think they could hold it May 1," Mau told the Elections Commission. "It's going to take time."

A June election is more likely, she said.

HR: Hawaii Attorney General to Elections Commission: Election to Fill Congressman Abercrombie's Seat Should Not Be Delayed Until September Primary

RELATED: 2010 Attorney General letter to election commission

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SB:  Helping homeless needs coordination

…tourists in Waikiki are increasingly annoyed by the homeless inhabiting bathrooms, street begging and public urination and defecation. The effect on tourism is troublesome, damaging the state's economy and causing layoffs that could add to the homeless.

If meals are to be offered, what makes sense is to provide them in not-so-visible spots that also integrate and offer outreach to get people off the streets. Enable the experts on the front lines to help discern the responsible struggling family from those with severe mental or substance-abuse problems, or from those transient snowbirds. Within the homeless population are subsectors and subneeds; these need to be identified and services geared toward helping people help themselves.

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Mental health services reined in

A slew of cutbacks to state-funded mental health services, including tightening eligibility for new clients to exclude those with PTSD, borderline personality disorder and some forms of major depression, is meant to rein in "unsustainable" growth over the past decade, Health Department officials said yesterday at a briefing on the state of mental health services in the Islands.

Michelle Hill, deputy director of DOH, told lawmakers that the cutbacks, made largely since the start of the economic crisis, are designed to bring the Adult Mental Health Division back to its mission of serving the severely mentally ill in greatest need, while also putting new emphasis on whether the state can afford the services offered.

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University of Hawaii athletics deficit may hit $10.1 million

UH's financial plight has been the result of several factors, including declining ticket sales in its major money producers, football and men's basketball, a $716,000 loss in its investments and rising costs in travel, guarantees and salaries.

UH said it tops the nine-member Western Athletic Conference in travel expenses ($2.78 million), is second in coaches' salaries and benefits ($5.6 million), first in staff and administrative salaries and benefits ($5.1 million) and has the highest student aid expense ($5.5 million).

Meanwhile, Donovan told the committee that UH is the only school in the WAC that doesn't receive some form of student fees. UH has said that a $50 per semester student athletic fee would "generate approximately $2 million."

Moreover, Donovan said, athletics receives none of the $400,000 in parking revenue he said its events generate and pays approximately $735,000 annually for student housing and shares only marginally in the sales of logo items.

In an effort to trim costs, Donovan told the committee, 17 positions in the department have been abolished or are no longer funded, saving more than $580,000 annually. He said ticket prices have been dropped in some areas for all events in an attempt to lure more ticket buyers. In addition, new and more lucrative concessions, TV and radio agreements have been negotiated and an additional $209,000 in revenue generated by securing parking at Aloha Stadium.

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ADV: Civil service gets in way of liquor panel

A 2006 effort to fix the problem through a charter amendment failed. One of its champions, City Council member Charles Djou, said its chances weren't helped by the wording: "Should the administrator, deputy administrator and secretary of the Liquor Commission be exempt from civil service provisions?"

The amendment should have made clear that the intent was to make the position more directly accountable to the commission, itself appointed by the mayor. That's the same model the police and fire commission follow; the police and fire chiefs are not civil servants.

The city should make another effort to pull the Liquor Commission's top jobs out of civil service. The Kim mess has stalled the reform effort that's needed to make the liquor commission a competent regulatory agency, not a punchline.

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ADV joins ‘peak oil’ cult: Future shock: Oil won't stay this cheap

And looking ahead, which is where transit planners have to look, only a fool would bet on gas remaining relatively cheap well into the future. (And have we conceded that $3.30 gas is cheap?)

China and India are slurping oil at a furious pace, just when global supplies appear to be waning.

(No.  Supplies are NOT “waning.”  There is plenty of oil in the ground.  What is ‘waning’ is the will to drill it.)

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Maui County suing Merrill Lynch: Lawsuit says firm knew of security market collapse, didn’t disclose it

According to the county's lawsuit, Merrill began soliciting the county to invest in SLARS notes as early as February 2007, often calling several times a day to push - for Maui County - this novel instrument. That summer, a structurally similar but unrelated auction rate market - backed by subprime residential mortgages - collapsed.

By that August, according to the complaint, Merrill knew or should have known the student loan-backed auction market was no longer "sustainable," yet it kept selling, the county lawsuit says. Maui County bought its first SLARS, $2 million worth, in mid-August.

Unknown to the public, the SLARS auctions were on life support. At weekly auctions, Merrill was not getting offers for all the SLARS it needed to sell. To maintain the apparent value, the lawsuit says, it had to buy SLARS for its own account.

But its risk managers were wary of the company's exposure and had limited the amount of SLARS Merrill could hold itself, the lawsuit says. So Merrill was looking for new customers to take these notes - which were not finding buyers at auction - off its hands.

It kept telling Maui that the investments were safe up to Feb. 12, 2008, the day before the SLARS market collapsed, according to a timeline provided by the county.

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Maui: OHA, anti-Superferry protesters continue assault on agriculture

Bobby Brooks, assistant land and resource manger for Haleakala Ranch and an Upcountry farmer, said that if water were restored to the streams, it would be taken from Upcountry farmers and ranchers, who are already struggling to survive.

"What's going to happen to you if you lose up to 75 percent of your water?" Brooks asked. "It's horrifying, the prospect of losing any water. We can't say to 25 cows, 'OK, you cows don't get any water today.' We have to kill those cows . . . or send them away (to sell on the Mainland)."

The result of less water will mean even fewer local producers of fruits, vegetables and meat, said Brooks, whose employer is the county's largest ranch and a member of Maui Cattle Co.

(Anti-Superferry protester) Lucienne de Naie, Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter executive board member and complainant adviser, said that EMI's system "leaks like a sieve," and the company has not made truly significant improvements to it since the sugar barons made an agreement for the water with the Hawaiian monarchy more than a century ago.

HC&S' parent company Alexander & Baldwin Inc. last month announced that it would wait until the water commission makes final rulings on stream diversions before deciding whether to end sugar cultivation on Maui.

Wendt was asked why taro farmers don't grow crops that use less water such as potatoes or dryland taro.

"You have to understand the taro we grow is a way of life," said (OHA flunkey) Wendt, a founding member of the Keanae's Na Moku Aupuni O Ko'olau Hui, "It is a culture. We were there before the sugar cane . . . For us to say, give up our wetland taro, that would never happen."

Not exactly:  UH cared for HALOA for 104 years with no help from any activists

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