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Monday, July 6, 2009
July 6, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:20 AM :: 13378 Views

Washington Post editorial criticizes Abercrombie defense bill provision ($10B in pork for his contributors?)

A Washington Post editorial today criticized U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie for inserting a provision into the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill just passed by the House that doubles the cost of relocating U.S. troops from Okinawa to Guam.

With 8,000 Marines and their dependents leaving Futenma Air Station, a new base will have to be built on Guam. Japan has agreed to pay much of the relocation cost.

Under Abercrombie's provision, at least 70 percent of the construction force will have to be U.S. citizens and be paid at Hawaii's prevailing wage rate, which is double to triple Guam's.

Initial estimates for construction expenses was near $300 million. The change could drive construction worker compensation costs to more than $10 billion.


Pacific News Center Guam (June 30):

A delegation of Guam business leaders is in Washington this week to lobby lawmakers to remove the Abercrombie amendments

(Why do they want LESS spending on their territory?  Because the spending is going to be directed to somebody outside of Guam.  Somebody who contributed to Abercrombie's campaign.)

The Senate has not yet acted on the measure and is not expected to until September.

WaPo: House Would Sharply Raise Cost of Guam Project (June 30)

a provision in last week's House bill would require that construction companies pay their employees working on Guam's realignment construction projects wages equivalent to rates in Hawaii, which are 250 percent higher than those on Guam, according to the Joint Guam Program Office.

The Congressional Budget Office report attached to the House bill estimates the growth in labor costs from this provision alone "would increase the need for discretionary appropriations by about $10 billion over the 2010-2014 period."

The provision was authored by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), the fourth-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

The government of Japan is expected to contribute about $2.8 billion to pay for the move. The U.S. government is to contribute $4.2 billion, and an additional $3.2 billion worth of family housing construction will be financed by third parties, who would then take a fee for managing those properties.

RELATED: Abercrombie nailed for $51M in "Defense" Pork

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Hawaii hotels report occupancy dropping

Despite deep discounts on room rates, Hawai'i hotels were less than 62 percent full in May, marking the worst May since at least 1987.

Hotels cut rates an average of nearly 13 percent to attract more visitors but still saw a 6.5 percentage point decline in occupancy from a year ago.

May was the fourth straight month of record lows for occupancy in Hawai'i's hotels. Toy said the steep decline does not bode well for the rest of the summer and the rest of 2009.

"We're really hitting new lows here with the industry," Toy said. "Right now we're still seeing some strong drops. It shows that we have not hit bottom yet."

SB headline: May's hotel figures bottom out

(How's that TAT increase working, Legislators?)

RELATED: Business Report: Airline Arrivals

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Advertiser: Focus must shift to forging fair settlement

Administration officials said they would resume negotiations as soon as the unions offer a formal proposal. That needs to happen quickly. A settlement that accrues savings from labor, by far the state's largest expense, needs to be the focus, not more courtroom appeals.

How substantial these savings need to be is unclear, but the right figure would most likely fall somewhere below the estimated 14 percent cut the furloughs would have exacted.  (How? No solution proposed here.)

Conversely, the 5 percent pay-cut solution suggested by Senate President Colleen Hanabusa would likely leave a budgetary gap that would have to be bridged by boosts in revenue: excise-tax increases and raids of the state's hurricane fund and other special-fund caches.  (Hanabusa's 'solution' is fake based on fantasy money raining from heaven.) 

Tax revenues are unlikely to rebound in the near future. But with people already struggling to make ends meet in a weak economy, cutting costs rather than increasing taxes — particularly a general tax that has such a wide-ranging effect — is the preferred option.  (OK, where?)

Lingle's other proposed solution, layoffs, should be an option only of last resort.  (Yes, THAT's a solution.  So all this empty Advertiser talk does is leave us with the same two solutions we started with:  Furloughs or layoffs.)

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State ends boosts in Medicaid reimbursements for doctors  (doctors take pay cut)

Higher payments to Hawaii doctors serving Medicaid/QUEST patients have ended after one year.

The 2007 Legislature appropriated $8 million for 2007-08 and another $8 million for 2008-09 to raise the state's payments to the federal Medicare level for health care providers.

The Lingle administration withheld the funding for 2007-08, causing an uproar among health and physician groups concerned about access to health care for poor and low-income residents. Doctors were reported cutting back on their practice or leaving the state because of low reimbursements. Payments were increased for 2008-2009 with release of the state money and $10 million in matching federal funds.

But lawmakers wrestling with the state's budget crisis this year did not repeat the appropriation, and the higher payments ended June 30 with the fiscal year.

"It's unfortunate," said Dr. Virginia Pressler, Hawaii Pacific Health executive president of strategic business development. A lot of doctors who did not understand the issue thought they were getting higher Medicaid fees, she said, "and now they're getting cut when things are getting worse."

(What have the four Democrats we send to Congress done to raise Medicare reimbursement of doctors?  Who is asking them?  Why are MDs getting pay cuts when the precious HGEA isn't?)

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High diesel prices tough on truckers (thanks, Legislature)

Prices for diesel were $3.892 a gallon, according to AAA Hawaii's Daily Fuel Gauge report on Friday. The prices are well under the record $5.519 a gallon paid for the fuel during last year's market spike, but users still grumble about local prices not falling as much as the Mainland.

One partial reason for the higher prices here is the amount of taxes paid at the pump. Hawai'i's 70.5 cents of taxes for diesel is the nation's highest and is nearly 20 cents higher than the national average of 50.8 cents a gallon.

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Kauai Vacation Rental Bankruptcy blamed on county law

‘Anini Aloha says it closed its Kaua‘i offices June 1, has “ceased all business operations” and is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. The company, a division of Arizona-based Solcrest Properties LLC, blames a controversial county law regulating vacation rentals.
“Due to the passing of an ordinance by the Kaua‘i County Council, several properties on Kaua‘i were recently denied a permit to operate as a vacation rental unit,” the letter says. “This affects most properties that are zoned as agricultural, which includes many homes on ‘Anini Beach.”
‘Anini Aloha says the county has sent out cease and desist orders to the affected homeowners, preventing the company from renting the properties without risking fines.

(Enviros and NIMBYs destroying the economy)

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3 bidding for Oahu rail

Two major train suppliers have pulled out of the running to provide vehicles and systems for Honolulu's planned rapid transit system.

Two companies that won't be providing the trains are Paris-based Alstom and Sacramento, Calif.-based Siemens Transportation Systems Inc. Both companies confirmed last week that they won't be bidding on Honolulu's project.

That probably makes the world's No. 1 train supplier, Bombardier Transportation, a favorite for the deal. So far Berlin-based Bombardier Transportation; Genoa, Italy-based Ansaldo STS and a consortium led by New York City-based Sumitomo Corporation of America are the only other competitors that have announced interest in the contract.

"We took a look at this one and said, 'Yeah there's three real good competitors,' " said Charles Wo- chele, an Alstom vice president for marketing and business development. "We know them well, we compete with them. If our car fit better with the specifications and we had something that was a little closer fit, we'd go after it. But we're chasing some big projects in the Mainland right now and you can't chase them all."

(How to rig bids?  Jimmy the specifications and then fail to perfect the bids.)

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Cheers, jeers greet Taiwan's president

The president of Taiwan left Honolulu Airport early last night after a controversial 23-hour visit to Hawaii that sparked protests from members of the Taiwanese community who oppose his political measures.

"China wanted to make it clear that Taiwan was a part of China, (but) we, the majority of Taiwanese, do not agree," said Yu-Chong Lin, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine. "The current government tried to control the media and local assembly just like China, but we want to maintain that we are separate from China."

After arriving late Saturday evening from Nicaragua with a 169-person delegation, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou stayed overnight at the Kahala Hotel & Resort before beginning a whirlwind visit that included a wreath-laying ceremony at Dr. Sun Yat-sen's statue at the Chinese Cultural Plaza and a series of private events: breakfast with Gov. Linda Lingle, lunch at the East-West Center and a reception at the Kahala Hotel & Resort sponsored by the Overseas Chinese in Hawaii.

Yesterday morning about 20 protesters from several organizations chanted, "One Taiwan, one China," in Mandarin as Ma arrived at the Chinese Cultural Plaza, while others held signs reading, "China Hands Off Taiwan" and "Chairman Ma Go Back to China."

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Tour reveals story of Waimea's walls deed

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs acquired Waimea in 2006. A year later it established Hiipaka, a nonprofit limited-liability company, to hold the deed to the property, manage it and protect it from commercial development. Hiipaka's mission is to "preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural and natural resources of Waimea for generations through education and stewardship."

(And who owns Hiipaka?)

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Presidential-sized parking problem turns residents against church

The Honolulu Christian Church is trying to find more parking for its growing congregation. One of the options is turning property they own into a lot. but there's one catch, President Obama used to live there.

This house in question question is where Obama lived during the mid-60s, for about three years with his grandparents and his mother.

Honolulu Christian Church leaders bought this property for just over a million dollars. At that time, they didn't know Obama had lived there. But they eventually found out.

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