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Saturday, October 30, 2021
October 30, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:09 PM :: 3101 Views

PVSA Reform: Hawaii congressional delegates missing opportunity to help Hawaii tourism?

Constant moving of goal posts breaks public trust

Spying on You: UH fans encouraged to download LumiSight app

Simoleons: Indigenous scientist calls for research funding change

How to increase health care affordability?  No GE Tax on Medical Services  

SoR: … The Hawaii Budget and Policy Center (HBPC) is calling for lawmakers to pass tax reform that would address racial and socioeconomic disparities across the state…

In Hawaii, the inequalities between these costs are exacerbated by the general excise tax (GET), which charges approximately 4.5% on goods and services, including health care. Aside from impacting the general public, GET can also place financial strain on health care providers. Kelley Withy, MD, director of the Hawai’i/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center, said these taxes especially impact small or private practice doctors.

“Hospitals and medical groups don’t have to pay the 4.5% tax on goods and services in medical care, but the small doctors do. They’re actually paying a double tax, because if you have public insurance, like Medicare or Medicaid, the provider cannot bill you more than the cost of service. They cannot include tax, and so [the provider] must pay that tax.

So not only do they have to pay that tax on everything they purchase, everybody they hire, and everything that costs them anything, but they have to pay the tax on the amount the patient, or the insurance company pays them.”

Withy said previous legislation to excuse small practice providers from GET, or at least allow them to collectively bargain, did not go through. These providers currently rely on the federally funded Hawaii State Loan Repayment Program (HSLRP) to help cover costs.

To help low-income households with health care costs, HBPC suggested expanding the state-level earned income tax credit (EITC). Federal EITC has been in place since 1975, and helped reduce costs for almost a quarter of Hawaii households in 2015 (approximately $230 million in claims). Thomas said the legislature should enact changes to the state-level EITC, which is set to expire at the end of 2022.

“Hawaiʻi’s EITC is nonrefundable, meaning that filers with tax burdens that are lower than the credit do not benefit from it. On the continent, 24 of the 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that currently provide a state EITC have made it refundable. Considering its profound impact on poverty, Hawaiʻi lawmakers should prioritize extending the state EITC and making it refundable.”

read … Hawaii tax reform could increase health care affordability, experts say

Taxes Going Up Retroactively

SA: …Businesses and individuals should prepare for potentially dramatic changes to the tax landscape. Congress is currently debating a substantial budget reconciliation bill to fund President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and social policy initiatives with tax increases aimed at high- income taxpayers.

Most of the proposals are expected to have an effective date of Jan. 1, but some might have retroactive dates. Additionally, tax laws enacted by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA, are set to expire at the end of 2025.

High-income taxpayers could see several tax increases. The top individual income tax rate could increase to 39.6% from 37% for individuals with income over $400,000 ($450,000 for married couples).

The proposal includes an additional 3% surcharge on income in excess of $5 million for individuals and married couples ($100,000 for trusts and estates).

The bill also proposes changes to the Section 199A business deduction and the 3.8% net investment income tax that would affect high- income taxpayers (see further below).

Under the proposal, the top capital gains tax rate could increase to 25% from 20% for individuals with income over $400,000 ($450,000 for married couples). The rate would apply retroactively to transactions occurring after Sept. 13, 2021.

In Hawaii several tax bills were introduced in the 2021 legislative session, including a number of income tax proposals that would have raised Hawaii’s individual income tax rate to the highest in the nation and several estate tax proposals to lower the current Hawaii estate tax exclusion amount significantly. Although these measures failed to survive in the Legislature, they signal a growing effort among lawmakers to increase state revenue and bolster (throttle) a pandemic- weary local economy….

read … Businesses and individuals need to plan for tax changes

After Four Months HART Finally Figures out how to Close Doors on Trains

SA: … The rail project’s trains are again running after contractor Hitachi Rail Honolulu fixed the problem of doors that were discovered ajar while the automated trains were underway during testing in July.

But another — fixing the ongoing mismatch between too-narrow train wheels on too-wide track switching points — remains elusive, Lori Kahikina, interim CEO and executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, told the HART board Friday.

… the trains have been running since last weekend after Hitachi Rail figured out how to secure the doors….

Addressing the other problem, Hitachi and HART have agreed to replace the trains’ narrower wheels with wider ones because the gap between wheels and track is too wide at crossing junctions called frogs.

Kahikina previously told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that new wheels would take about a year to manufacture, import and install versus two years to make and install new frogs.

In the meantime, Kahi­kina told the board Friday that HART continues to search for a qualified welding contractor on the mainland — and Hitachi is conducting a global search — for welders who can retrofit the manganese frogs to narrow the half-inch gap between track and wheels….

(CLUE: Try a google search: “manganese frogs”)

read … Wheel-track discrepancy remains as Honolulu rail trains run again

Contact tracing device plans at Kamehameha Schools spur protests

MN: … Saying the move came without consent, some Maui parents are opposing a plan by Kamehameha Schools to make students wear tech devices that will alert users of possible COVID-19 exposure.

“The fact that they’re tracking the kids and the way they’re doing it, it’s just not right,” said Kim Castillon, whose four children attended Kamehameha Schools Maui.

A few dozen people protesting the device and other COVID-19 measures at the private school rallied Monday at the Maui campus. Another such rally is planned for 6:45 a.m. Monday near the Kulamalu parking lot.

The wearable device produced by SaferMe comes in the form of a card attached to a lanyard that should be worn unobstructed around the neck. Using Bluetooth technology to record when it comes close to another user, the cards do not track locations or personal information and are not equipped with GPS, according to a school email to parents.

The data system will decrease the amount of time it takes to do manual contact tracing and increase the accuracy of close contact information gathered, all of which can help prevent larger outbreaks, according to the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama website.

When asked if the device is being used at other schools in Hawaii, Darren Pai, Kamehameha Schools strategic communications director, said that it is but declined to provide examples.

“We are aware of other schools,” he said Friday. “It’s not appropriate to identify them.”

The state Department of Education has not announced plans to implement devices, nor have many private schools on Maui.

Sienna Yoshida, whose children attend Kamehameha Schools Maui, said on Friday that the move is “bizarre” and a “complete overreach.”…

Kamehameha Schools is planning to implement the SaferMe wearable device cards in a phased approach, with Maui’s campus slated for a third quarter rollout, according to a school email.

Pai said that the device rollout at other campuses has just started and school officials are receiving questions about how the technology works and how it will be implemented….

All students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear the SaferMe device card as part of in-person learning. Wearing the SaferMe contact tracing card is a part of the mandatory uniform for school attendance. Any disciplinary action for not wearing the lanyard will be consistent with procedures for a student not in uniform, according to the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama website.

“The system works best when everyone in our school community participates,” Pai said….

read … Contact tracing device plans at Maui school spur protests

Hawaii restaurants’ revenue loss worse than thought

SA: … A new Hawaii Restaurant Association survey suggests that industry revenue declines in the past two months were worse than anticipated, prompting a renewed call to lift seating capacity limits.

The trade association Friday released results of a member poll taken earlier this week showing that 37% of restaurant owners surveyed said their revenue dropped by more than half in September and most of October compared with the same period last year or the prior two months.

An even greater share, 80% of respondents, reported a sales decline of at least 30%….

read … Hawaii restaurants’ revenue loss worse than thought

Workers claim hotels are 'using the pandemic as their excuse' for not bringing some employees back

KITV: … Belting chants and waving signs, more than 100 hotel workers stormed the streets of Waikiki Thursday, demanding their jobs back. ..

read … Workers claim hotels are 'using the pandemic as their excuse' for not bringing some employees back

Amid calls for relocation of Red Hill, the Navy pushes a double-tank test

SA: … Amid ongoing fuel leaks between Red Hill and Pearl Harbor, the Navy said it is investing over $750 million in improvements to its aging fuel storage tanks that lie 100 feet above the Moanalua-Waimalu groundwater aquifer — while also pursuing a double-wall tank experiment.

At a state fuel tank advisory committee hearing held Thursday over Zoom, the Navy said that on July 16 a release of about 150 gallons of marine diesel into Pearl Harbor was detected at Kilo Pier due to corrosion that created a small hole in a pipe.

The state Department of Health was immediately notified, 110 gallons was recovered and the pipeline was emptied, said Capt. Bert Hornyak, commander of the Fleet Logistics Center at Pearl Harbor….

read … Amid calls for relocation of Red Hill, the Navy pushes a double-tank test

Civil Beat Files Lawsuit To Learn Who Has Died In State Custody

CB: …“That is the only way that we as outsiders can determine whether what happened was the result of really unjust conditions of incarceration, or some lapse in the way that the system is being run,” Kim said. “It is absolutely critical that there be transparency in this context.”…

in 2019 the Legislature passed Act 234 to require the correctional system to file reports with the governor each time a prisoner dies in custody….

The state released limited information about inmate deaths in 2019 and 2020 to comply with the new law, but the names of the deceased prisoners have been blacked out in all of the Act 234 reports that have been released to the public to date. In fact, the reports are redacted so throughly that they contain almost no information.

Even so, the first batch of Act 234  reports triggered new scrutiny when they did reveal a murder at the Oahu Community Correctional Center in 2019 that the prison system had never publicly announced.

That case involved Jacob Russell, 56, who was attacked at the jail by Payton Nathaniel Hough on Nov. 19, 2019. Hough stomped on Russell’s head and neck during the attack, and Russell fell into a coma before dying on Christmas morning that year. Russell’s family identified him as the victim in that attack.

Both Russell and Hough had histories of mental illness, and a state judge ruled last August that Hough was not legally responsible for his actions that day at OCCC. He was acquitted of a murder charge and committed to the state Department of Health for treatment at the Hawaii State Hospital….

PDF: Lawsuit

read … Civil Beat Files Lawsuit To Learn Who Has Died In State Custody

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