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Thursday, April 7, 2011
April 7, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:08 PM :: 14297 Views

State Reaches Agreement with HGEA--Mayors Kept in Dark

Unemployment rate dips to 5.2 percent in Honolulu  (oops!)

February’s unemployment rate was up from 4.8 percent in December when holiday retail hiring helped create a bump in employment.

Honolulu’s rate in February compared with a statewide rate of 6.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The data are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Unemployment on Oahu has been slowly falling since hitting a cyclical peak of 6.2 percent in August 2009 during the economic downturn. The rate had been as low as 1.8 percent in December 2006 before the recession.

The rate in February was good enough to tie Honolulu with Portsmouth, N.H., for the eighth-lowest rate of 372 metropolitan areas the bureau surveyed.

Hawaii’s job growth through the past year has been strongest in the hospitality industry, while white-collar jobs have lagged, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

(But Abercrombie got the CoR to fake it anyway.)

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GE Tax hearing: Democrats demand choice between two types of GE Tax Hike, nobody fooled

"You have literally taxed the shirts off our backs. Now with this excise tax you want to tax the pants off our butts," musician Kawika Crowley said.

Opposition came from all facets of industry and the non-profit sector that claim services would suffer.  "We also employ people so we're contributing to the economy. When we have to lay people off, that's going to have a rippling effect as well," said Lisa Maruyama of the Hawaii Alliance of Non-profit Organizations.

Another element in the bill suspends general excise tax exemptions for certain businesses.  Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Keoni Wagner said that would increase the company's cost by $80 million over the next three years, leading to layoffs and increased air fares. 

Support for a tax increase was voiced by the Democratic Party of Hawaii and the union representing government workers.

"I think it's wrong to just stop and say, 'Hey, it's too much money.' We have to look at both sides. You have to look at the services that are being provided," said Nora Nomura of the Hawaii Government Employees Association.  (Solitaire on computer awaits.)

"The net result of this is this is a transformation that helps shift our overall tax structure in a much more progressive direction," Democratic Party of Hawaii member Bart Dame said.  (WRONG.  GE Tax is the most REGRESSIVE type of tax.)

(On the video Dame said $5 per $100 GE Tax is relatively painless compared to a hike in the income tax:  “they look at the tax at the end of the year and say ‘oh my God, these people are ripping me off.’”   -- In other words, the Dems can stick it to the taxpayers more easily with the GE Tax than the Income Tax.)

Senate Democrats billed the hearing as a time for taxpayers to choose either a hike in the GET or suspending exemptions. (PRECISELY AS PREDICTED.)  "That is really an unfair statement," House Republican leader Gene Ward said. "It's like saying do you want cat food or do you want dog food?"

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Democrats to buy Support for GE Tax hike with $100M in tax Credits

A 1 percentage point increase in the general excise tax would raise about $500 million to $600 million a year. Senators would give back about $100 million in tax credits to protect poor and middle-income residents from the regressive, broad-based tax.

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HGEA: Tentative Agreement on Parameters of Contract

Public workers would also get an additional six hours of paid time off each month, according to sources….

“Since the beginning of our administration, we have talked about shared sacrifice as the pathway to changing Hawaii,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “Today, the Hawaii Government Employees Association stepped forward to do their part by making a sacrifice to help all people of Hawaii. In these worst of fiscal times, a new era of teamwork and hope has begun.”

The HGEA, which has seven mostly white-collar units across state and county government, declined to comment publicly on the details. “There is a tentative agreement on the parameters of the contract, but details are still being finalized with the employers,” Jodi Endo Chai, an HGEA spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said he spoke by telephone with Abercrombie yesterday morning and was told about the 5 percent pay cut and the split in health care premium costs. He said he was also told about the additional paid time off for public workers, which he does not agree with, but noted that the provision about time off was not included in the governor’s announcement.

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HGEA Comp Time: Governor Just Kicked the can down the road again

…the union got the sweet end of the deal, hands down. And the Governor just kicked the can down the road again, although he won’t admit it. Here’s why:

Vacation time isn’t free. Consider it the working man’s equivalent of Stock Options. They can spend it now or save them and spend them later when they are worth more. Assuming a twenty day work month, 5% pay is equal to 8 hours of work. So trading a 5% pay decrease for 6 hours of vacation time/options is somewhat equal, slightly favoring the gov’t. Except that worker’s can hold onto these hours for years and cash them in at the end of their career when their per hour pay rate is at a premium. And at which time our gov’t will have to come up with the money to pay them. It’s a pay me now or pay me later situation to the max, and we just decided to pay them later. Good work on the union’s behalf… but i think tax payers were hoping for some real, honest, savings vice a shallow smoke screen that the HGEA has now down their part…

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Mayors still in dark about HGEA Contract

Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said that he is still engaged in conversation with all of the parties involved. Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa said he is unclear about parts of the deal and wants to meet with the governor and other mayors to discuss the details.

“I need to find out in writing the truth and the whole truth about the provisions of the tentative agreement,” Carlisle said in a statement. “Once we have received all of the provisions in writing, we will need to determine the financial impact on the city.”

HR: Abercrombie “no comment” on Mayors questions

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House Finances passes Tax Credits for Billionaire Clinton Cronies, Bag Tax hiked to 10 cents for middle class

House Finance just adjourned. Here are highlights: Passed out SB318 on tax credits for media infrastructure projects i.e. Relativity Media.

FIN passed out SB1363 plastic bag fee of 10 cents for each single use checkout bag.

New draft for SB1270 includes GOP proposed language calling for repayment of 42M to HHRF. Chair Oshiro on the bill: "We gotta do it folks."  FIN reconsidered SB1270 taking money from Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund. Now taking $42 million instead of $35, repay in 2014/2015.

SB120, transfer of various special funds to balance budget, passes w/ HD1. Total transfer is $19.9M , per M.Oshiro

Second cross is next week. Any bills the Lege plans to keep alive must be decked by Friday. Hence, the marathon FIN cmte hearings this week

Senate WAM decision making on HB793, GET increase vs. suspension of exemptions, set for 9:50 a.m. today (Thursday)

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Study: U.S. has 4M gay adults; 1.7 pct. of populace

Gary Gates puts the figure at 4 million adults, representing 1.7 percent of the 18-and-over population.

That's much lower than the 3 to 5 percent that has been the conventional wisdom in the last two decades, based on other isolated studies. It's also a fraction of the figure put out by Alfred Kinsey, who said in the 1940s that 10 percent of the men he surveyed were "predominantly homosexual."

Gates has advised the Census Bureau. He's a demographer-in-residence at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Committee Approves Five Hawaii Ed Board Appointees

Horner told the committee he hopes to begin by throwing out the board's old bylaws and policies and starting from scratch. That, he said, would send a message to the entire system that its culture is about to change.

Horner's vision for a permanent audit committee on the board also came into clearer focus under questioning, and he talked about increasing efficiency by updating technology systems and reorganizing to put the right personnel in the right places.

"Honestly, the human resources system is so antiquated that those people are working very very hard and not necessarily smart," he said. "We have a lot to do in HR. In my opinion, the state hasn't necessarily been a good employer in the way it treats employees. And it doesn't have to be that way."

He also spoke about not duplicating work and suggested he would like to consolidate the separate Board of Education and Department of Education communications offices into one.

Sen. Sam Slom submitted a "very strong aye" in favor of the nominees after asking them some tough questions and even receiving some gentle chiding from the chairman-to-be.

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Kauai Council Rejects Biodegradable bags

Councilman Mel Rapozo in February introduced an amendment that would have allowed ready-to-eat food establishments to provide biodegradable plastic bags to customers.

After that proposal worked its way through committee meetings and public hearings, Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura introduced an amendment Wednesday in an attempt to offer a compromise between an “outright ban on biodegradable bags” and Rapozo’s proposal.

She said her amendment, which tightened the broad definition of “biodegradable bags” in Rapozo’s amendment, would have required ready-to-eat food establishments to use compostable bags that meet specifications of the American Society of Testing and Materials Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics D6400.

“Progressive cities like San Francisco and Santa Monica use this standard in defining biodegradable bags,” she said. (This is the measure of acceptability.)

Nakamura’s amendment failed 2-4 with only Rapozo and her voting for it. Back on the main motion to approve Rapozo’s bill, the sole vote in favor of it was from Rapozo.

“The intent of my amendment was strictly for food safety issues,” Rapozo said before the final vote. “It was not an issue of convenience.”…

Rapozo’s amendment would have allowed those establishments to offer biodegradable plastic bags at checkout stands. He said there was a petition signed by over 2,000 residents asking the council to address the food-safety issue.

The council over the course of the last two months heard several testimonies concerning possible cross-contamination of food carried in reusable bags, specifically due to improper care of those bags.

A study conducted by the University of Arizona citing alarming levels of cross-contamination from reusable bags was discredited by some council members after learning the study’s funding came from oil companies.

“The source of information is important,” (anti-Superferry protester) Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said. “If the oil industry supported the research we have to look at the results accordingly.”  (But is eco-activists support it, it is sacred text.)

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Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears

… last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.  (Enviros achieving their population control goals in the 3rd World.)

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Hawaii County Council to burn through $56M—14 new projects

The Hawaii County Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a list of 14 projects to be funded through a $56 million bond issue before postponing the bill until its April 20 meeting to comply with state Sunshine Laws.

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Case to announce Senate bid within 10 days, claims to be OK with Inouye

Former congressman Ed Case was in Washington, D.C., this week for meetings with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and potential fundraisers about his likely U.S. Senate campaign.

Case said he would make an announcement about his campaign within the next 10 days.

Last year, Inouye and Akaka publicly endorsed Colleen Hanabusa over Case in a special election for Congress. Inouye, who suggested that Case was untrustworthy after his primary challenge to Akaka, steered money toward Hanabusa and sought to discourage the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from backing Case.

“I apologized,” Case said of his conversation with Inouye. “I told him that I regretted very much the circumstances under which he has opposed me. And I apologized for any offense caused there.

“And he accepted both and we had a very good discussion. It was open, relaxed, cordial –  exactly what needed to happen.” (yeah, right.  We’ve heard this line before.)

Case said he has not yet been able to see Akaka…. (and he never will)

RELATED: Case: Inouye not in control, won’t be able to designate next Senator

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Loss of Hawaiian album Grammy greeted with dismay and shrugs

Reactions ranged from sorrow to blunt dismissal yesterday at the announcement that the award for best Hawaiian music album will be eliminated from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences lineup.

The award is one of 31  being cut in a radical downsizing that reduces the number of award categories from 109 to 78.

Hawaiian musicians will compete against American Indian, Cajun, zydeco and polka recordings in the newly created Regional Roots Music category. Four other “roots music” genres — Americana, bluegrass, blues and folk — will continue to have separate individual award categories.

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Obama golf pal arrested in Honolulu prostitution sting

Waialua resident Robert Richard "Bobby" Titcomb, 49, was arrested at South and Pohukaina streets at 9:40 p.m. Monday.

Titcomb was charged with prostitution and released after posting $500 bail at 11 p.m.

Titcomb was one of four men who were arrested in a “reverse sting," targeting prostitution customers. HPD declined to give specifics about the location or other details about the operation.

The president last played golf with Titcomb during the first family’s most recent holiday vacation over Christmas and New Year’s. On Dec. 30, the president and his family spent the day at Titcomb's beachfront home in Waialua, where they ate barbecue, played volleyball and hung out on the beach.

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Trump: I Have Investigators in Hawaii...'They Cannot Believe What They're Finding'

DONALD TRUMP: I am saying I want to see the birth certificate. It's very simple. I want to see the birth certificate. How come his own family doesn't know which hospital he was born in? How come-- forget about birth certificates. Let's say there's no birth certificate. How come in the hospital itself, okay? This is one of the hospital itself, there's no records of his birth. In other words, it doesn't say how much they paid, where is the doctor, here's your room bill. You know, all the

MEREDITH VIEIRA: You've been privy to all of this to know this?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're talking.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: You have people now out there searching-- I mean, in Hawaii?

DONALD TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding. And I'm serious--

(Birtherism is Obama’s best hope for reelection.  Obama is very pleased with Donald Trump.)

CNN: Trump sends investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama

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