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Sunday, January 15, 2023
January 15, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:04 PM :: 2373 Views

More Temporary Tax Fixes Considered

Criminal Conspiracy behind Property Assessment Hikes

Shapiro: … Most disturbing is a suggestion by City Council Budget Chairman Calvin Say that the high assessments were the result of pressure from lawmakers or public worker unions to increase the revenue pool for collective bargaining pay raises.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Say noted without the valuation increases, the Council would have to increase the property tax rate to cover pay raises.

“If you and I were paying $100 today on our home, and it went up to $140, that $40 assessment increase on the real property tax values has been earmarked for collective bargaining,” he said.

When asked whether lawmakers or union officials had a hand in pushing for higher property values, Say said, “I believe so.”

If politicians and unions in fact put such a thumb on the scale, it’s a corrupt act that should be investigated by city and state (FEDERAL) prosecutors….

Back-door manipulation of property valuations by lawmakers or unions to spare the Council a politically uncomfortable vote to increase the tax rate would be a gross breach of public trust — and possibly a violation of the law….

The mayor ruled out the more direct approach of balancing the aberrational valuations by lowering the tax rate, arguing that Honolulu’s property tax rate is among the lowest in the country.

True, but also somewhat misleading. Mainland rates are higher because public schools are a local function funded by property taxes.

Hawaii has the nation’s only statewide school system, funded by the state’s excise and income taxes. Our overall tax burden, combining the state and county taxes, is among the nation’s highest….

Best Comment: “Last day to appeal valuation assessments is today a minute before midnight.”

Jan 3, 2023: HGEA Fraudulently Boosted Oahu property values to fatten contract negotiating position

read … Mayor, Council must ease doubt about Oahu tax valuations

Only Republicans Support Tax Cuts

CB: … Saiki and Senate President Ron Kouchi have already made it quite clear they have serious doubts about some of Green’s most important campaign promises, including his pledge to eliminate the excise tax on food and medicine and his proposal for a “green fee” that would be imposed on all tourists arriving in Hawaii.

John Hart, communication professor at Hawaii Pacific University, described those public statements by Saiki and Kouchi late last month as “opening salvos” for what may be shaping up as a power struggle….

House Republican Minority Leader Lauren Cheape Matsumoto said her caucus, which numbers six out of 51 House members, will propose a bill to eliminate the state income tax for taxpayers earning less than $150,000, or couples earning less than $300,000. That would provide significant cost-of-living relief to most Hawaii families, she said.

She estimated that would eliminate about $1.9 billion a year in state tax collections, but contends the state should “start stimulating the economy by putting more money in the hands of the people who are here,” she said. “If we’re really serious about helping local families, this is something we could do.”

Matsumoto also said she hopes Green sticks with his campaign proposal to eliminate the excise tax on food and medical services after that idea was criticized by leading Democratic lawmakers. She said House Republicans will introduce a bill to do so, which is something the Hawaii GOP has backed for years.

“My hope is that he sticks to it,” Matsumoto said of Green. “I think it’s a really strong point, and it’s not like it’s a revolutionary idea.”

Most states already exempt food and medical services from their sales taxes, and Hawaii should have done the same years ago, she said….

Related: GE Tax: Audit Shows Tourists Pay 14.1%--not 30%

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Are Usually A Cautious Bunch, But The New Governor Wants Action

Hawaii Is Where People Spend The Most On Rent --42% of Income

WS247: … According to Forbes Advisor, the percentage of income that people spend on rent in Hawaii is 42%. No other state is over 30%. Rents in Hawaii are $2,136 against a monthly income of $5,079. California is second on the list. The state has a high income but relatively modest rent payments. The income figure stands at $6,388. Rents every month are $1,818, which is just 28% of income ….

SA: Hawaii spends more income on rent than any other state

read … Hawaii Is Where People Spend The Most On Rent

Lawmakers not enthused about changing the way business is done at the Legislature

CB: … is this one more year when reforms are ignored? The Senate just released its 2023 priorities and the proposals were mentioned … not at all.

Unfortunately the latter seems more likely, based on what candidates running for office told voters during the 2022 political season.

That is, if they bothered to say anything at all. Of the 76 people elected to the Legislature last year, 35 ignored repeated requests to respond to Civil Beat’s candidate questionnaire. That included 28 incumbents….

Forty-one winning legislative candidates did respond in the Q&As, but just 13 said the Sunshine Law should apply to state lawmakers. Two were flat-out opposed, while the remaining 26 were undecided or gave no response….

Sen. Karl Rhoads, for instance, just announced he would introduce a bill to increase public financing of campaigns to reduce the influence of special-interest groups. But when it comes to those closed doors, he wrote in his Q&A that “being able to meet in private makes it easier to work out compromises quickly.”

Rhoads, by the way, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that could be hearing many of the reform proposals….

read … Lawmakers not enthused about changing the way business is done at the Legislature

Saiki: Green’s $100M Climate Initiative DOA

CB: … Last week, Green pledged to provide at least $100 million to a “climate impact fund to fight climate change and preserve the state’s natural resources.” Of course, Green cannot do that without the permission of the Legislature, which guards its power over state spending.

Spending more money to cope with climate change is an idea that may well be embraced by many Democrats at the Legislature, but Green apparently rolled out his proposal for the public before pitching it to key lawmakers.

Saiki said he learned of the climate change initiative from the press release Green distributed to the media on the subject, and was still unclear exactly what the governor has in mind….

(Translation: Dead on Arrival)

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Are Usually A Cautious Bunch, But The New Governor Wants Action

DHHL Will Soon Have Three Plans to Spend $600M--Therefore the money will elapse unspent

CB: … Saiki said he wants the House to become more directly involved in helping the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to plan how it will spend the $600 million that lawmakers committed to DHHL last year to support development of housing on homelands….

(Translation: There will be three DHHL plans: Aila’s, Anderson’s, and Saiki’s therefore DHHL will do nothing and lose the $600M when it expires.)

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Are Usually A Cautious Bunch, But The New Governor Wants Action

More upgrades needed at State Hospital to handle demand for mental health services

KHON: … According to DOH, there are 143 patients in the lower campus and 127 in the shiny, new patient care facility. DOH said staffing issues are preventing them from filling all 144 beds in the new unit….

“Just in the last year-and-a-half on HSH campus itself, we’ve had an increase in 37% in our senses,” Curtis said….

The plan according to Curtis is to renovate the Guensberg building, one of the oldest units at the hospital built in the 1950s.

According to officials, $39 million has been requested for those upgrades….

Curtis said Guensberg could be used to help patients dealing with substance abuse and mental illness who need more long-term care.

“That would free up space in the Hawaii State Hospital for those that need that acute in-patient psychiatric level of care…so we’re looking at flexible space that we could use at Guensberg seeing how much things have just changed over the last year and a half,” said Curtis….

A master plan, submitted by DOH in 2015, proposed additional upgrades to the facility, more than doubling its number of beds to 516.

read … More upgrades needed at State Hospital to handle demand for mental health services

Department of Health no longer wants 2 Oahu hospitals

SA: … An effort to transfer two Oahu hospitals to the state Department of Health to help fill the island’s desperate need for treatment options for residents suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems is on the brink of failing, with DOH officials now saying it would be cumbersome and cost too much.

The Legislature passed a bill in 2021 requiring that Leahi Hospital and Maluhia nursing home be transferred from the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to DOH by the end of 2022, a deadline that was later extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation was strongly backed by DOH and HHSC’s Oahu regional board and administrators who operate the facilities.

DOH, at the time, told lawmakers the transfer would help the state provide more behavioral health services and was a “rare opportunity to add significant value to our residents’ quality of life.” And HHSC’s chief administrative officer for Oahu said Leahi Hospital may be able to treat as many as 64 psychiatric patients, freeing up space at the Hawaii State Hospital, the state’s only psychiatric hospital, which is overcrowded with court-ordered patients. The added space could help DOH provide mental health care for patients not ordered to the hospital by the courts.

But after spending more than $452,000 studying the transfer, officials from both agencies told lawmakers during budget briefings before the House Finance Committee in recent days that they had concluded the transfer was a bad idea. It would cost an estimated $4.1 million to execute the transfer, with ongoing additional costs pegged at $3.7 million in fiscal year 2023 and rising to $6.6 million annually by 2026, according to a DOH report.

The report found the biggest cost would be paying new DOH staff to assist with operations….

read … Department of Health no longer wants 2 Oahu hospitals

Molokai health center closing, leaving a big hole in medical care on the 'friendly isle'

KHON: … With the passing of famed doctor Emmett Aluli late last year, his Molokai Family Health Center will be closing on Jan. 25 -- and that's leaving a big hole in medical care for nearly 2,000 patients….

There are still three main providers on island -- Molokai General Hospital, Molokai Community Health Center and Na Puuwai Native Hawaiian Health Care System. But residents say more must be done to build up the health-care system and help homegrown physicians financially so they can come back to practice….

read … Molokai health center closing, leaving a big hole in medical care on the 'friendly isle'

456 Catch-n-Release Arrests in Waikiki, 575 Arrests in Chinatown do nothing to reduce Crime--Time to Call in National Guard?

SA: … Safe and Sound Waikiki has referred 456 arrests to city prosecutors in its first four months — progress that has been overshadowed by a recent series of violent crimes.

The overwhelming majority of those arrests have involved what Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm refers to as “quality of life” crimes such as harassment, public intoxication and urinating in public. They include 372 referrals for misdemeanor crimes, 52 domestic violence misdemeanor arrests and 32 felony arrests.

(Translation: All but 32 are catch-n-release.)

Overall, Alm said, Waikiki had significantly more arrests over a shorter period than Chinatown, where Weed and Seed, a similar cooperative law enforcement and judicial strategy, netted 575 police referrals over a 16-month period….

SA: Calling National Guard to Waikiki a ‘nonstarter,’ official says

read … New Safe and Sound Waikiki program has over 450 arrests so far

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