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Hawaii’s Fiscal Picture Is Looking Up. So Why Do Lawmakers Still Want To Raise Taxes?
CB: … House leaders say they will consider increasing capital gains and state income taxes on high earners…
For months Gov. David Ige talked about Hawaii’s $1.4 billion-per-year state budget shortfall, a catastrophic number that acquired a kind of doomsday feel to it. Yet when Ige presented his new financial plan to reporters earlier this month, he never once mentioned that number.
When a reporter asked earlier this month about the size of the shortfall, Ige replied he didn’t have that amount handy, a tacit acknowledgement the infamous estimate of $1.4 billion is outdated.
And that is another sign that, from the perspective of state government, things are looking up.
Layoffs are no longer part of the administration’s plan, furloughs have been delayed indefinitely, and the worst of the proposed cuts to public education have been averted. Ige still wants money-saving concessions from the public worker unions, but says tax increases won’t be necessary.
But this year’s budget drama won’t end there. State lawmakers are now rewriting Ige’s budget, and they appear to be headed in directions that will further complicate the fiscal landscape.
House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said Monday she is determined to restore funding to a number of state programs the administration has targeted for cuts.
Luke also said she is ready to consider increasing the state capital gains tax and boosting state income taxes on higher-income residents to raise money for the changes she wants to make.
She also contends the state should step up and pay back about $700 million it borrowed from the federal government to cover unemployment benefits for state residents.
Technically, that unemployment loan is the responsibility of the state’s employers, but Luke argues state government should repay the $700 million because it was the state that shut down tourism and much of the local economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Employers were given no choice.
If the Legislature accepts that argument, it will have big budget implications. Ige has said he hopes the federal government will help Hawaii to repay the unemployment loan, but did not include repayment of the $700 million in his proposed state budget.
Ige said in a written statement Tuesday that “we can’t afford to pay off the loans based on the current revenue forecasts.”…
read … Hawaii’s Fiscal Picture Is Looking Up. So Why Do Lawmakers Still Want To Raise Taxes?
HB1278: Bill to halt unemployment tax hike on Governor’s desk
PBN: … House Bill 1278, which won final passage on Monday and was sent to Ige the same day, sets employer contributions to the state unemployment compensation trust fund to schedule D for 2021 and 2022.
The rate employers pay had been scheduled to increase from a less costly schedule C to the highest rate, schedule H, in March, and still will unless Ige signs the bill into law by then.
The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations noted that the state’s unemployment insurance fund had a reserve of $607.5 million in November 2019, but that was depleted by June because of the widespread unemployment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The state then borrowed $700 million from the federal government.
The bill had support from business owners, industry associations and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.
But it doesn’t address what Barron Guss, president of Altres called in written testimony the “elephant in the room,” which is the state’s obligation to repay the federal government and replenish its unemployment fun.
The Tax Foundation of Hawaii also noted in its testimony that if Hawaii hasn’t fully repaid the loan in full by Nov. 10, 2022, the federal unemployment tax will increase on Jan. 1, 2023.
Nelson Befitel, chief counsel at ProService Hawaii and a former director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations under Gov. Linda Lingle, also noted in his testimony that lawmakers should look for other ways to replenish the fund other than taxing employers.
“The mass shutdowns that triggered unemployment to skyrocket were the result of societal decisions rather than business decisions, of which employers cannot be responsible for footing the bill alone,” Befitel wrote. “The trust fund was not intended to pay for financial relief of major disasters.”
CB: Bill Spares Hawaii Businesses From Replenishing UI Trust Fund — For Now
Jan 31, 2021: Grim Reality of Unemployment Taxes
read … Bill to halt hike in Hawaii employers' unemployment tax rate awaits Ige signature
Health providers allowed to ‘interpret’ vaccine prioritizations
KITV: … The Department of Health lists restaurant employees in Phase 1-C of the state's COVID-19 vaccination priority plan. But turns out guidelines are open to interpretation.
Right now, the state's operating under Phase 1-B for employees performing essential work on site, close to the public and can not be done from home. Some food service workers are getting vaccination shots.
Alex Le is co-owner of "The Pig and the Lady" restaurant in Chinatown. On Monday, Kaiser Permanente vaccinated him and about 25 of his employees. Le says it was offered, and he didn't request it.
"We not only helped their frontline workers, we were involved in a lot of other community projects like Chef Hui, Aloha Harvest, helping feeding our kupuna and things like that," Le said. "I think Kaiser really supported us with that and recognized it. And they approached us for their appreciation to vaccinate my staff." ….
read … Health providers allowed to interpret DOH COVID-19 vaccine priority plan
As Oahu prepares to move to next tier, mayor says he’ll also seek to allow organized sports
HNN: … The city’s order allowing Oahu to move to Tier 3 was signed by the governor Tuesday night.
Oahu has been in Tier 2 of its reopening plan since October, which meant groups were kept to five people and many businesses had strict capacity limits. To move to the next tier, weekly averages needed to stay between 20-49 cases and the positivity rate had to remain under 2.49%.
The seven-day average for cases stands at 29 with a 1.1.% positivity rate.
Under the new Tier 3 rules, slated to go into effect Thursday:
Social gatherings can have up to 10 people, up from five.
Parties at restaurants can also have 10 people and there are no capacity limits. But eateries must still enforce social distancing rules.
Retailers will also be able to operate without capacity restrictions, from 50% now.
Gyms and fitness facilities that operate indoors can go up to 50% capacity (from 25%).
Twenty-five people can attend funerals, up from 10.
For all the details on the city’s Tier 3 COVID restrictions, click here.
Tier 3 does not allow for the reopening of bars or the resumption of organized sports.
But Blangiardi said he’ll submit a request to the governor to change the reopening restrictions, weaving rules for youth and adult organized sports into Tier 3. There’s no timeline for reopening bars….
HNN: Oahu is (finally) poised to move to Tier 3. Here’s what will be allowed.
CB: Mayor: Oahu Pandemic Restrictions Set To Loosen On Thursday
SA VIDEO: Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announces Oahu’s move to Tier 3 of reopening metrics
PBN: Honolulu receives approval from Ige to move to Tier 3 in Covid reopening framework
read … As Oahu prepares to move to next tier, mayor says he’ll also seek to allow organized sports
Some who got unemployment benefits say they’re getting inflated tax bills
HNN: … Mary Freeman of Ewa Beach is a retired aerospace worker and a part-time employee at Macy’s Kapolei.
She was furloughed twice during the pandemic.
Freeman said she received her Federal 1099-G with a figure that does not match up with the money she got from unemployment.
The difference is more than $1500.
“I didn’t get these monies,” said Freeman. “I’m paying tax on something I didn’t receive.”
Her bank statements show nearly $5300 of unemployment benefits were deposited in her account.
However, her Federal 1099-G shows a figure of 6,827 dollars.
But Freeman is not alone.
Hank Erwin owner of Hank’s Tax Service said about half a dozen people walked into his office Tuesday with the same issue.
“Another person says they had gotten zero money, but they were still given a 1099-G, their whole amount is pending,” explained Erwin. “They haven’t gotten it, but they would still put on the 1099-G as if they had gotten it, that’s the scary part.”…
State Labor Director, Anne Perreira-Eustaquio released a statement.
“We have discovered no inaccurate 1099s. Among the factors that some claimants do not take into account include those with a “mixed” history of both regular UI claims and PUA, the FPUC (+$600) that was a program that ran from the end of March to the end of July (18 weeks), and the LWA (+$300) that was available for six weeks in the fall.”…
SA: Rally today over ‘broken’ unemployment system to demand in-person service, timely benefits
TGI: Respecting workers, employed and unemployed
read … Some who got unemployment benefits say they’re getting inflated tax bills
HPD rolling out final body-worn cameras which have already been misused
SA: … HPD began outfitting officers with 1,200 cameras in August 2018 and has been slowly outfitting all eight HPD patrol districts and enforcement personnel in the department’s Traffic Division.
At a Honolulu Police Commission meeting Feb. 17, while reporting on the progress of Police Chief Susan Ballard’s five-year plan for the Police Department, HPD projected it will finish outfitting officers with the cameras by the end of March….
During last week’s commission meeting, HPD also went over an annual legislative disciplinary report showing that five officers who were disciplined in 2020 had “failed to activate” or had deactivated their body-worn cameras and did not “submit appropriate reports.”…
SA: The next step should be adopting county or state policies specifying when cameras can be deactivated, and imposing penalties for noncompliance.
read … HPD rolling out final body-worn cameras which have already been misused
How Much Land is Needed to Meet Hawai`i 2045 Goals of 100% Renewable Energy?
IM: … 4.5% of all land on Oahu would be used by wind farms and solar farms ….
read … How Much Land is Needed to Meet Hawai`i 2045 Goals of 100% Renewable Energy?
Fast-tracked stadium redevelopment = “Boondoggle”
ILind: … I thought the key question was simple: Do we need a new stadium?
And I thought the answer was relatively simple: Yes, we need a new stadium so that University of Hawaii Division I football will have a home.
But then a funny thing happened. The Stadium Authority just cut off UH without discussion. At the end of 2020, the authority simply announced no further events will be held at Aloha Stadium. With that curt announcement, apparently not accompanied by any behind-the-scenes consultations or negotiation with university officials, plans for the next several UH football seasons were upended. And, further, University of Hawaii was informed key decisions about the relationship between the university and the stadium, including financial arrangements and the rights to various income streams created by its football games, will have to be negotiated with the private corporate entity eventually selected to develop the site. In other words, public policy and public opinion may favor the university and a special place for the football program, but corporate interests will control the redevelopment of the site and will determine the terms of any UH-Stadium arrangement.
So, as a result, the university is pursuing an on-campus stadium as an alternative to continued use of Aloha Stadium. And, in the end, even a much smaller stadium on campus may be a better financial deal for the university, since revenues from football games and other events at the stadium, including ticket revenue, advertising, along with concession and parking income, would remain with the university to underwrite the athletic department.
So now that key question has become something like this: Without collegiate football, and given all of the state’s pressing needs, is a new stadium really among the highest priorities? ….
HB62: Bill to make UH athletics ‘entirely dependent’ on state support amended
read … Fast-tracked stadium redevelopment = “Boondoggle”
State Senate committee passes automatic voter registration
AP: … A bill advanced Tuesday by the state Senate Judiciary Committee would automatically register to vote eligible U.S. citizens who apply for a driver’s license or state identification card, unless the individual declines to be registered….
read … State Senate committee passes automatic voter registration
Last call for booze tax bill: Legislation on beverages nearly dead for the session
HTH: … The liquor tax bill is still technically active, but it only has until March 5 to pass its final committee — meaning it only has two working days to do so, thanks to a five-day recess that begins Thursday.
The sugary drinks bills have both failed to progress since January, and have therefore missed essential deadlines and can be considered dead….
read … Last call for booze tax bill: Legislation on beverages nearly dead for the session
Lawmakers debate lowering DUI threshold
WHT: … Senate Bill 754 would reduce the blood-alcohol content threshold for being arrested and charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicant from 0.08% to 0.05%…..
read … Lawmakers debate lowering DUI threshold
Corona Virus News: