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Sunday, February 5, 2023
Grassroot Institute hits the ground running in promoting liberty at Legislature
By Grassroot Institute @ 6:49 PM :: 1253 Views :: Hawaii State Government

Grassroot Institute hits the ground running in promoting liberty at Legislature

from Grassroot Institute, February 4, 2023

State lawmakers introduce thousands of measures each year, so gauging which require public attention is a challenge unto itself.

State lawmakers are barely two weeks into their 2023 legislative session and already hundreds of bills have been heard in the various committees at the Capitol.

Working to keep up with the onslaught, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii so far has submitted more than 20 pieces of testimony on bills relating to issues ranging from housing to healthcare.

Here are some of the testimonies the Institute submitted as of yesterday:

>> HB670: LUC reform would speed up homebuilding

>> HB666: Licensure compacts would make it easier to attract more healthcare workers

>> SB720: 'Predecisional' exemption for public records would thwart accountability

>> SB400: Asset forfeiture reform long overdue in Hawaii

>> SB925: 'Wealth tax' impractical and could do great harm

Testimonies submitted through today — and in the future as the 2023 legislative session progresses — will be available for viewing on the Institute website, www.grassrootinstitute.org.

  *   *   *   *   *

Grassroot Institute keeps busy sharing views with media here and nationwide

Journalists have been increasingly reaching to us for comments or background information — and we are happy to be of assistance

The mission of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is to "educate about the values of individual liberty, economic freedom and accountable government."

So when journalists from the media come calling for our views on topics within our wheelhouse, we are grateful and happy to oblige. Among recent appearances in the media:

>> Joe Kent, Institute executive vice president, was featured in a KHON2 television news story, "Hawaii bill looks to increase capital gains taxes," concerning legislative bill HB232, which would tax capital gains at the same rate as "ordinary" income.

Interviewed by reporter Sam Spangler, Kent said, “This bill would be devastating to savings and investment in our state. It would basically increase the capital gains tax rate to 11% up from 7.25%. That’s a 50% tax hike. And, that’s going to affect a lot of people who are trying to save in Hawaii.”

In addition, Kent said, the state doesn't need more revenue: “When we have a $2.6 billion surplus, this is one of the biggest surpluses that Hawaii has ever had. And, that’s going to grow to $10 billion in just a few years. So, we don’t need the money."

>> Institute policy researcher Jonathan Helton quoted in a Honolulu Civil Beat article about Honolulu's potentially drastic increase in property taxes, due to recent higher property assessments.

In the article headlined "Honolulu Homeowners Are Shocked At New Property Tax Bills. Here’s Something That Could Help," Helton told reporter Stewart Yerton that among the many options being discussed about how to mitigate the potential tax increase, "the best thing to do is just slash the rate.”

According to Yerton, Helton called for reducing the standard property residential rate by 29%, to $2.50 per thousand, or 0.25% from $3.50 per thousand or 0.35% — and cut spending.

>> "Grassroot Institute experts" were quoted by Washington Examiner writer Jeremy Lott in an article about Honolulu's bus and transit problems, "Hawaii's HART troubles in Honolulu."

Starting with TheBus, Lott noted that it "relies heavily on government funds to stay in

business," with its fiscal 2023 subsidy totaling $176 million. Meanwhile, its ridership has declined by almost half over the past 20 years, which, Lott said "is much worse" than the national 32% decline over the same period.

Lot said the "Grassroot Institute experts" said TheBus appears to be "competently, though expensively, managed. [Its] buses mostly run on time. However, some are practically empty, and the longer buses don’t tend to fill up. Management hasn’t matched the reduced passenger traffic with a reduction in vehicle size to save money."

Regarding Honolulu's over-budget and behind-schedule rail project, Lott reported that locally, its troubles are seen as "more of a running joke, as well as a pain in the wallet."

"Grassroot Institute experts," Lott wrote, "explained that because the island has sunk so much money into light rail, it has also strongarmed TheBus into working to make it a success by chopping up some of its routes into 'feeder routes' that will push passengers toward the rail. That has worsened commuter times for some islanders and threatens to make things more complicated when the trains start running."

>> Keli‘i Akina, Institute president and CEO, contributed a few comments to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser article about state funding of tourism, "Senators put Hawaii Tourism Authority in the hot seat again."

Written by reporter Allison Schaefers, the article concerned a Senate committee hearing at which HTA executives were grilled about their request for $75 million in funding for fiscal 2024 and $60 million for fiscal 2025. Amid all the dissatisfaction expressed about HTA, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim suggested that lawmakers consider a five-year moratorium on funding HTA to determine if the agency is needed at all.

Asked for his opinion, Akina told Schaefers: “I recognize that tourism is an extremely valuable part of the Hawaii economy, and it’s important that we market Hawaii as a tourist destination at the highest level. But promoting tourism would be better left in the hands of the tourism industry itself. The airlines, hotels and many other industry players are more than able to handle this themselves, and they are in a better position to gauge the results of their efforts.”

He added, “At the very least, the Legislature should consider the suggestion that it halt HTA funding for five years. That would be a pilot program I would like to see.”

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