Grassroot Institute in the News
from Grassroot Institute, Sept, 2023
The Grassroot Institute continues to make recommendations to Hawaii's four county councils. Here are summaries of the most recent testimonies submitted:
KAUAI COUNTY COUNCIL
Kauai lawmakers discuss property tax reform, look to increase home exemption to $220,000
from Grassroot Institute
Kauai County councilmembers continued to hash out the details of several property tax reform bills during a hearing Wednesday
After in-depth discussion, the Kauai County Council's Committee on Finance and Economic Development agreed to increase the County's home exemption by $60,000 — from $160,000 to $220,000.
The committee amended Bill 2901, which originally proposed increasing the exemption by only $20,000. County homeowners are estimated to save $2.1 million — or about $150 per property — from the $60,000 increase.
The Council also removed a 20% assessment cap from Bill 2901 after concluding that it would create a substantial workload for County staff. They compromised on the issue by adding a 20% assessment cap for the new non-owner occupied tax class to a different property tax bill on the docket — Bill 2902.
Bill 2901 passed out of committee and will be heard next by the full Council, while Bill 2902 will be discussed again by the committee in November.
The committee also discussed Bill 2903, related to property tax reform, but chose not to pass it in favor of the amendment made to Bill 2902.
The Institute submitted testimonies regarding all three bills ahead of the hearing. They can be viewed here:
>> Bill 2901: 'Kauai looks to simplify tax relief, increase homeowner exemption, add assessment cap.' This bill would increase the homeowner exemption by $20,000, repeal miscellaneous property tax exemptions and implement a 20% assessment cap for all classes of property not covered by the existing 3% assessment cap. As a whole, the three major changes it proposes would simplify Kauai’s tax code and offer tax relief to all island taxpayers.
>> Bills 2902 and 2903: 'Kauai bills seek to expand property tax relief for affordable rentals.' Together, these bills would constitute major reforms to the taxation of long-term affordable rental properties. The first would expand eligibility for tax relief for disabled veterans, change the property value and income limits for the “home preservation” program and create a $150,000 exemption for certain long-term “gap” rental properties. The second would also change county policy on the taxation of long-term rentals by creating a new tax classification specifically for long-term “gap” rentals.
HONOLULU CITY COUNCIL
>> Bill 48 (2023): 'Kupuna, retirees should retain property tax relief when they move.' This bill would create an assessment cap for Honolulu homeowners who are 65 or older to ensure the assessed value of any eligible property could increase by no more than 2% each year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The Institute suggests the bill be amended to mitigate possible drawbacks, such as retirees avoiding downsizing because they do not want to see their tax bill go sky-high.
>> Resolutions 23-170, 23-171 and 23-173: 'Resolutions would ease hiring challenges, save city money.' Drafted in response to recommendations that stem from a June 2023 audit of the city’s hiring process, these resolutions aim to assist the city administration in hiring for critical positions and deleting unfilled and unnecessary positions, likely contributing to lower budgetary costs in the long run. As a unit, they would help identify and mitigate the city’s chronic hiring challenges.
HAWAII COUNTY COUNCIL
>> Bill 59: 'Provide older homeowners with increased tax exemption.' This bill would create a new homeowner exemption amount of $125,000 for Hawaii Island owner-occupants age 80 years old and older, leaving in place the current $110,000 home exemption for homeowners age 75 to 79. The county’s Department of Finance estimates that more than 5,000 homeowners would qualify, for a total savings of almost $400,000.
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Grassroot Institute in the news...
The Epoch Times quotes Akina on governor's housing proclamation
In a Sept. 1 article headlined "Hawaii Investigates Unsolicited Offers to Buy Maui Land," which features a section about Gov. Josh Green's emergency proclamation on housing, reporter Bill Pan of The Epoch Times quoted Grassroot Institute President and CEO Keliʻi Akina's July 22 "President's Corner" column, "What I think about the governor’s housing proclamation."
Pan wrote that "Proponents of Gov. Green's deregulatory approach praised his shifting away from the Democratic Party's typical pro-regulation stance, although some expressed concerns over the use of emergency power." This quote from Akina's column followed: "In effect, Gov. Green has created a housing sandbox that will give us a good opportunity to identify what works, what can be improved and what permanent changes can be made to encourage long-term housing growth in our state."
Reckon quotes Akina on Hawaii permitting laws favoring the wealthy
In an Aug. 15 article titled "Fires scar Maui, but land grabs pose a new threat to healing," reporter Christopher Harress of the media organization Reckon quoted comments that Grassroot Institute President and CEO Keliʻi Akina made during a presentation about easing Hawaii's housing crisis that he gave to the Hawaii Island Housing Coalition in October 2022.
Harress quoted Akina in a section of the article that poses the question "Can Hawaii be affordable?" The quote used is: "Developers who try to build affordable housing have to go through public hearings where the community comes together and says, most often, ‘Not in my backyard.’ ... Hawaii’s housing policies are set up to favor the fabulously wealthy … [because] it’s all that's left for developers to develop.”
The article also notes that Akina suggested allowing affordable housing developers to be automatically approved for simple builds, as well as reducing the number of public hearings.
You can read a summary of Akina's presentation, as well as listen to the entire 25-minute recording here. A complete transcript is provided.
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