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Sunday, September 3, 2017
September 3, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:45 PM :: 3563 Views

King Tide Floods? City Installed Valve Makes Them Worse

AG Chin Defeats Parents of Disabled Children

North Korea Tests H-Bomb For New ICBM

Rail:  I Dunno About TAT

Rail: Nationally known concrete monument to the incompetence of Hawaii’s Democrats

SA: …stopping construction now could turn the partially built rail guideway into a nationally known concrete monument to the incompetence of Hawaii’s Democrats. Not surprisingly, Hawaii Democrats reject that option….

The question on the table was how to pay to finish construction, and at times things got ugly. Leading lawmakers fumed that Caldwell seemed to think the city was “entitled” to an extension of the half-percent excise tax to provide the money needed to complete the project. Some closed-door negotiations deteriorated into a shouting match last month.

Some of that ire was about personalities. House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-­Nuuanu) and House Speaker Scott Saiki have a poor relationship with Caldwell that dates back more than a decade to when they served together in the House, and parted company during an internal power struggle….

“Call it what you guys want to call it, but in my humble, simplistic view of things, you guys are in, lock, stock and barrel,” said state Rep. Marcus Oshiro of lawmakers’ decision to oversee rail spending. “The physical presence of you guys being there speaks volumes of your engagement. This is now a state project.”….

SA: It’s past time for state and city political leaders to put an end to their bitter and fruitless dueling.  That includes Hanabusa. 

read … Monument to Truth

Caldwell Preparing Excuses for More Tax Hikes

Shapiro: Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s trail of debt on Oahu rail is strewn with loose words and broken promises.

Like when he pledged in 2012 to “build rail better” and said: “The current $5.2 billion budget includes a very large contingency and adequate reserves for short-term financing. Reports that it will cost $7 billion or more are only scare tactics unsupported by anyone except tea party-style rail critics.”

Or when he promised that “100 percent of costs will be collected by the time the system is completed. There will be no ‘mortgage’ to pay in 2022 when the (excise tax) surcharge for the rail project ends.”

Now, after the Legislature voted $2.4 billion last week to bail out Caldwell’s lousy math for the second time, the rail tab is $8.14 billion, the half-percent excise tax surcharge is extended until 2030 and the hotel tax is up a percentage point for 13 years to fund the train.

Astonishingly, (Of course) the mayor is already saying it’s not enough and he’ll likely be back for more — possibly soon….

the city will finally have to explain how it’ll pay some $140 million in annual rail operating costs…..

read … Broke

In 2030 GE Tax will be Raised to 4.5%—Permanently

SA: …House lawmakers in particular oppose a permanent excise surcharge for rail. Earlier this year, then-House Democratic Majority Leader Saiki (D, Downtown-Kakaako-­McCully) said permanently surrendering the surcharge to the city would make it “very difficult” to raise the tax again for other purposes.

“If the Legislature is going to raise the GET, there are other state programs that could also benefit from that, and the House does not want to preclude consideration of those other areas, such as public schools and human services programs,” he said. Saiki has since become the House speaker, and the House view on that issue prevailed.

(Translation: Lege will raise the GE Tax to 4.5% to pay for the HGEA position which are created by these ‘other things’.)

Rather than make the city surcharge permanent, lawmakers voted last week for a three-year extension of the half-percent surcharge on Oahu to raise another $1.32 billion for rail. The Legislature also voted to raise the statewide hotel room tax by 1 percentage point for 13 years to raise $1.04 billion. Under the bill approved in the special session that ended Friday, both of those tax provisions will expire in 2030…..

read … Rail bailout forever weds state to project

Legislators Put Themselves on HART Board

SA:  …state lawmakers used SB 4 to change some of the ground rules:

>> The $2.4 billion in additional tax revenues will come not only from a three-year extension of the Oahu-only general excise tax surcharge ($1.04 billion), but also from an increase in the statewide transient accommodations tax ($1.32 billion) — essentially giving every island some “skin in the game.” The funding scheme runs through 2030.

>> SB 4 creates a mass transit special fund, controlled by the state, to collect tax revenues for the capital costs of rail. State officials will review and certify the project’s invoices before releasing money from the fund to HART.

>> The Senate president and House speaker will each appoint two non-voting, ex-officio members to HART’s board of directors.

>> The state auditor will conduct a deep-dive audit into HART’s management, as well as do annual reviews…not the formal “forensic” independent audit rail critics have demanded….

read … All need to rally to finish rail well

‘Somebody tell me how it’s right’ Big Island officials trying to make sense of rail bill’s passage

HTH: …“It’s disappointing,” Kim said. “I’m disappointed in all of us for what was committed. … I was waiting for people to question within the Legislature the fairness of this. … Somebody tell me how it’s right.”…

County Council Chairwoman Valerie Poindexter, who testified against the bill in Honolulu and then watched as it passed the House on final reading, said she talked with Ige after the session.

“I shared my concerns of having to raise our property taxes to take care of our county’s expenses — yet Oahu is allowed to have a state-ordered bailout that impacts the neighbor islands — and legislators fast-tracked it without any input from taxpayers before they crafted the bill,” Poindexter said.

Poindexter said she also met with Rep. Mark Nakashima, whose district she lives in, and they “agreed to disagree.”….

Poindexter said that option “is hard to swallow when we already increased the fuel tax for county roads and also raised property taxes to balance our budget.”

“We keep taxing our people instead of looking for other alternatives,” she said.

The bill also raised the cap on the amount of the TAT the counties share, increasing the $93 million TAT cap for counties to $103 million and making it permanent.

That raises Hawaii County’s share from $17.3 million to $19.2 million. That still falls far short of the amount the counties used to share before the amount was temporarily capped during the Great Recession. The Legislature’s intent at the time was to return to the original formula once the economy stabilized, according to records…..

…the Hawaii County Council and Kim raised property taxes and gas taxes this year.

Kim recalled the days the counties’ share of the TAT went from 95 percent of the revenues to 45 percent and now to a fixed amount that won’t increase as tourism increases, even though the impact of tourism will continue to rise….

“If anyone can tell me how the distribution of TAT is fair, I’d like to hear it,” Kim said….. 

VIDEO: Council Chair Poindexter Toe To Toe With State Reps

Cataluna: Legislative leadership seemed to have brokered deals so that some of the neighbor island politicians could save face at home. Dissenters were allowed to make their speeches, huff and puff, call it an outrage while all along the votes were secure.

SA: Carr fails to mention the millions he could be making at taxpayer expense.

read … ‘Somebody tell me how it’s right’

Maui: Legislature Should Have Taxed TVRs Instead

MN: …Appreciation must be shown to the Neighbor Island and Oahu legislators who voted “no” on this proposal. However, Neighbor Island legislators were not unanimous and I encourage you, if your legislators supported this measure, to ask them why.

Once the governor signs off, the Neighbor Islands will watch an additional $30 million from our economies go straight to Oahu instead of staying in our communities for local businesses and employees.

The Legislature could have explored all TAT taxing options before increasing rates. This includes law changes to ensure collection of TAT from accommodation remarketers instead of just operators. I am working on a bill to correct this problem, and will be asking for it to be included in the Hawaii State Association of Counties legislative package. The potential increase in revenues will range from $60 million to $80 million.

The outcome at the Legislature is indeed frustrating and serves as a good example why many residents lose faith in government. Unlike county councils, boards and commissions, the Legislature does not have to follow any open government laws.

Many times, their decisions are made in leadership meetings or in caucus behind closed doors. Members do not need to explain their votes in public or hold public debates.

This is in stark contrast to hearings at county council meetings throughout the state. All deliberations and decision-making must be made in public. Agendas must be posted at least six days in advance and only posted items may be discussed. The Legislature oftentimes only must give a 48-hour notice and has wide latitude for discussions.

No more than two council members can interact or discuss council business at any one time and no commitment to vote can be made outside of an open session.

I believe the way the county councils operate is the right way. For council members it can be frustrating at times, but it protects the public’s right to know.

All that I ask is that the state Legislature follow the same rules that it requires boards, commissions and county councils to operate under. It is only fair and this most recent special session is an example of why this is necessary and appropriate…..

read … Maui Council Chair Mike White

AG Chin Asks 9th Circuit to Force Churches to Promote Abortion

HNN: The Department of the Attorney General filed a memorandum on Friday opposing an attempt by certain religiously-affiliated organizations to prevent a new law concerning women’s access to information regarding reproductive health services from being enforced. The law, Senate Bill 501 (2017), was passed by the Hawaii state legislature on May 4, 2017, and signed into law as Act 200 on July 12, 2017. It requires limited service pregnancy centers to notify women in writing regarding the availability of state-funded reproductive health services.

The Department’s memo argues that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over several Western states including Hawaii, already upheld a similar law passed by California in 2015….

read … State wants women to have access to family planning services

Sen Waklai Retaliation Game Puts HTA 6 months Behind Processing Vendor Payments

SA: A move to bring the Hawaii Tourism Authority into compliance with state law has caused some of the agency’s contractors and vendors to get paid months behind schedule, causing hardships for smaller businesses and events.

In May, HTA notified its contractors and venues that the state Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) was assuming sole authority over disbursements and issuance of checks from HTA’s tourism special fund.

The transition was part of an effort by state lawmakers last session to increase HTA accountability, said state Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi- Salt Lake-Aliamanu). Wakai, chairman of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Technology Committee, said Act 235 had given HTA the power in 2005 to issue its own checks from the tourism special fund….

Becker said DAGS does not have a backlog of payment vouchers and that those received in good order from departments and agencies typically result in checks being issued in two to four business days.

Still, Becker said, the transition of an agency operating outside the state treasury to inside the treasury “is very rare so there is no standard to judge how HTA did in comparison to others.”

Background: Senator’s Wife Refuses Hush Money and Hush Money? HTA Calls Waikai’s Bluff

read … Retaliation

Con Con to be on 2018 Ballot

Borreca: Next year, Hawaii voters get their once-a-decade chance to register not only their displeasure with the state of government, but their hope that democracy can fix it.

Hawaii, Illinois and Connecticut are the only states that give voters a regularly scheduled chance to decide if they should call a convention just for amending the state Constitution.

We vote every 10 years for or against a Constitutional Convention, or “Con Con,” and next year it will again be on the general election ballot…..

The 1978 Con Con started with vaguely defined goals and a disenfranchised citizenry…it ended up with creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs….

read … Con-Con



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