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Tuesday, December 12, 2017
December 12, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:49 PM :: 2638 Views

Ethics: Top HTA Execs Busted Taking Travel Upgrades

Hawaii 3rd-Highest Tax Revenue Per Capita

How Affirmative Action Hurts Asian-Americans in College Admissions

Throwing Money at Housing Won’t Work

Hawaii DOE Saves $13M on School Bus Routes

Draft EIS for Natatorium set to be complete by summer 2018

EPA, State of Hawaii receive Navy’s Red Hill Fuel Tank upgrade study

America’s Health Rankings--Hawaii 2nd Healthiest

Thanks to Latest Union Contracts, State pension fund shortfall rises to $12.95 billion

SA: …The shortfall in the state Employees’ Retirement System pension fund rose slightly to $12.95 billion in fiscal 2017 and is expected to keep rising until additional taxpayer contributions that went into effect in July begin to have a meaningful effect.

A preliminary report presented Monday by an independent actuary to ERS trustees showed the deficit in the fund widened from last year’s $12.44 billion, but the funded ratio — what is needed to meet future obligations — improved to 54.8 percent from 54.7 percent.

“Even though we’ve had a spectacular year, a 13.7 percent increase in our asset value as of June 30, 2017, the liabilities have continued to grow as we’ve experienced higher-than-expected salary increases,” ERS Executive Director Thom Williams said. “Those salary increases directly impact the liabilities and the benefits that we pay…..

Wes Machida, an ERS trustee and the state director of finance, said the actuary report showed that total employer contributions are estimated to exceed $2 billion annually in 20 years or less….

The contribution increases approved in May by the Legislature for the fiscal 2018 year that began July 1 raised the employer contribution rate for general employees to 24 percent of the employee’s pay by fiscal year 2021 from the 17 percent contribution level in the just-concluded fiscal year. That rate increases in fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 by 1 percentage point each year, increases by 3 percentage points in fiscal year 2020 and goes up by 2 percentage points in fiscal year 2021.

The employer contributions for police and fire employees will rise to 41 percent by fiscal 2021 from the 25 percent level in the fiscal year that just ended. It will increase 3 percentage points in both fiscal years 2018 and 2019, and then 5 percentage points in both fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

The added money from taxpayers will raise an additional $34.6 million in fiscal 2018, $70.7 million in fiscal 2019, $176 million in 2020 and $252 million in 2021.

Actuary Gabriel Roeder Smith & Co. now projects it will take 26 years, or until June 30, 2043, for the pension fund to become whole. Without the increases, the actuary said in its fiscal 2016 report that it would take 66 years, or until 2082, for the fund to become fully funded….

read … State pension fund shortfall rises to $12.95 billion

UH athletics still in the red despite $3.4M assist, audit finds

SA: Even with a combined $3.4 million infusion from the Legislature and the Manoa campus, University of Hawaii athletics ran at a $1.7 million deficit for the 2017 fiscal year, according to an independent auditor’s report.

The report for the UH Board of Regents by Accuity LLP noted: “The financial condition of the athletic department continues to be fragile due to the ongoing struggle to generate operating and fundraising revenues, compounded by increasing operating expenses. These conditions will likely necessitate future recurring institutional support in order to sustain the athletic department.”

The $1.7 million deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30, was cited as “progress,” noting that the department — which spends upward of $40 million on a 21-team athletic program — “has improved annual losses from $4.2 million in 2015 to $3.2 million in 2016 to $1.7 million in 2017.”

The 2017 red ink marked the sixth consecutive year of deficits in the department and the eighth in the past 10 years. The current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2018, and will include the 2017 football season, also is anticipated to run at a deficit despite new revenue agreements with Under Armour and Hawaiian Airlines and a multimedia rights deal with sports media agency IMG….. 

Big Q: What do you think about University of Hawaii athletics, which chronically struggles with deficits?

read … UH athletics still in the red despite $3.4M assist, audit finds

Poll: Voters Support Term Limits, Voter Initiatives

CB: …Registered voters in Hawaii are ready to do what the Legislature has refused to do, according to a new Civil Beat poll:

• Sixty-eight percent of respondents support term limits for legislators, while just 16 percent oppose them.

• Sixty percent back allowing voters to basically go over the heads of legislators by establishing a system of statewide voter initiatives, binding referendums and the ability to recall elected officials. Eighteen percent oppose that.

• Forty-six percent support converting to all-mail balloting, while 35 percent are against the change….

Link: Poll Results Term Limits

Link: Poll Results Initiative, Referenda, Recall

Link: Vote by Mail

read … Poll

Republicans: Time To Exempt Food From The GET

CB: Hawaii Republicans argue that the state Legislature should “stop taxing life.”….

read … Exempt

Lack of Hysterics at Pesticide Hearing

KGI: The House Committee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Rep. John M. Mizuno, and the Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Rep. Richard P. Creagan, held an informational briefing Monday to update the status and progress of the JFF Study Group’s recommendations released last year.

The report, completed in May 2016, provided an analysis of environmental and health issues associated with pesticide use on Kauai, and the briefing was to hear how state and county departments had followed up on the group’s recommendations, according to a press release. Lawmakers also want to make sure continued environmental and human health impacts related to pesticides are addressed with fact-based policy and decision making….

KGI: Gary Hooser watched Monday’s House Committee briefings via the internet

read … Pesticides will continue to be contentious

Scientists: Whales and Dolphins can Cover Their Ears to Protect Against Loud Noise such as Sonar

SM: Whales and dolphins can naturally muffle loud sounds, potentially protecting them from sonar and other dangers.…  This means that decades of anti-military rhetoric was all lies….

read … Another Anti-Military Lie Busted

Civil Beat Investigates Doctors who Deny Workers Comp Claims

CB: …Hawaii’s workers’ comp system forces many injured workers with long-lasting or complex injuries to battle insurance companies and their hand-picked doctors to get treatment and disability payments.

The system was designed to be “no-fault,” much like auto insurance – you get hurt, you get treatment.

But for workers like Kauwalu, it too often turns into a litigious nightmare….

Our investigation analyzed almost 200 reports over the past seven years by three doctors who have been cited most often in cases before the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board and appellate courts….

In nearly nine out of 10 of these public cases, the three doctors issued opinions that were bad news to workers trying to get treatment or payments — the injury did not occur at work, for instance, or it’s resolved and needs no further treatment. Or the worker has no permanent impairment that would warrant a cash payout….

While workers often prevail, it can mean hiring lawyers and waiting for years as the insurers deny treatment plans and appeal administrative decisions over and over again on the same or similar grounds. In the meantime, disability payments and treatment are cut off. The insurers can afford to wait out workers. Many workers decide to accept lump-sum settlements rather than continue to fight…. 

CB: This Woman Lost 10 Years Battling A System Where Insurers Call The Shots

CB: Recent Court Decisions Beneficial For Injured Workers

read … Workers Comp

State Seeks $9.3M for CHIP as Federal CHIP Funds Run Out

KFF: Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired on September 30, 2017. CHIP covers 8.9 million children in working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford or access private coverage….

Hawaii reported that it would make reductions in other areas of the budget (outside of Medicaid/CHIP) and request an emergency appropriation for SFY 2018 to address its estimated $9.3 million shortfall….

read … State Plans

Panel urges more funding, awareness to prevent suicides

SA: Lawmakers are grappling with how to prevent suicides, the leading cause of fatal injuries, which accounts for one person dying every two days in Hawaii.

On average there were 186 suicides a year from 2012 to 2016, compared with 120 in the early 2000s, state Department of Health statistics show. Hawaii County has the highest suicide rate at 117 deaths per 100,000 residents, followed by Kauai at 92 and Maui at 86. Oahu had the lowest rate at 66….

The Prevent Suicide Hawaii Taskforce, comprising public, private and nonprofit groups, presented a plan to reduce suicides in Hawaii by at least 25 percent by 2025.

Strategies include raising awareness through the press about this preventable public health problem and tapping into social media where most teens and many adults spend their time….

HM: Can Hawai‘i Cannabis Help End the Opioid Epidemic? (No.)

read …  Panel urges more funding, awareness to prevent suicides

Bizarre News: Government Employee May be Fired for Nonfeasance

MN: Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa revealed to a County Council committee Monday that he wants to remove water director Dave Taylor because of his inability to manage personnel, complete projects as promised and plan for the future….

But some council members wanted a general explanation in open session, noting that Arakawa discussed Taylor’s removal with the advisory county Board of Water Supply. He cited Taylor’s failing to plan for the long term, like 100 years ahead, and Taylor’s take on the mayor’s desire to purchase Wailuku Water Co.’s and East Maui Irrigation’s water diversion systems….

Taylor currently is on administrative leave. Deputy Director Gladys Baisa, a former council member, is serving as acting director…..

read …  Mayor says water chief lacks management abilities

Homeless to be Cleared out of Ala Wai Boat Harbor?

CB:…boat owner, Bruce Baxter. said, “It’s a good idea to get rid of the people living on boats who don’t pay. But the sweep is just a flash in the pan. There are people here illegally living on their boats for three to five years. There is no enforcement of the live-aboards and other problems such as drug dealing on the docks.”

Baxter, a retired computer programmer, says it took him six years to get a slip at Ala Wai Harbor for his 42-foot sloop and another three years to get a live-aboard permit.

Many people complain about the long wait to get a slip. Depending on vessel size, the wait for a mooring permit can be anywhere from one and half to five years, according to the Boating Division.

It’s a longer wait to get a live-aboard permit, because only 129 of them are allowed out of the 747 slips at Ala Wai Harbor.

Boaters I spoke with Saturday are frustrated because they claim many boat slips at Ala Wai that could be rented are sitting  vacant.

DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward says 80 slips are currently vacant, but she says next week the Boating Division will resume offering boaters some of the vacant slips….

Rents for living aboard seem to average in the $500 range, which is inexpensive for a home on the water in the heart of Waikiki….

Cooper is from Seattle, where he says a live-aboard mooring like he has here would cost upwards of $1,000….

read … Live-Aboard

Latest crash underscores risks of airspace around Molokai

SA: …National Transportation Safety Board records show that six of the state’s 12 fatal air crashes occurred in and around Molokai, with four of them happening in just the last 14 months.

While each incident involves its own set of circumstances, veteran Hawaii commercial pilot Rob Moore said the island does present particular challenges for aviators.

Moore, president of the General Aviation Council of Hawaii, said Molokai, for one, does not offer good radar coverage, with pilots flying on their own below 3,000 feet.

In addition, the weather can be a big problem, especially this time of year, he said. Clouds can build up fast in and around the mountainous northeast side of the island.

While the airport at Hoolehua does have a weather reporting system, it is not as sophisticated as ones found elsewhere, Moore said.

“If you get outside of 5 miles from the airport, there is no really good weather information there,” he said.

Moore said he’s been lobbying for better aviation weather reporting on Molokai….

read … Molokai

Democrats to Cut ‘Superdelegates’ 60%?

CST: …In 2020, the Democratic party is going to be less potentially tilted toward an establishment candidate who, with “superdelegates,” gets a nomination boost.

That’s because for the 2020 presidential contest, the number of so-called Democratic “superdelegates” is going to be reduced by about 60 percent. In whole numbers, that’s a cut from 700 to about 300.

That’s the recommendation that came out over the weekend from the Democratic National Committee’s Unity Reform Commission, born at convention to keep angry Sanders followers in the family….

read … Democratic Party superdelegates won’t be so super in 2020

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