Saturday, July 20, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, February 18, 2024
The ConAm Returns Again
By Tom Yamachika @ 5:00 AM :: 1496 Views :: Education K-12, Taxes

‘Talking Tax’ hosts pan bill to let state levy property tax ‘surcharge’ | Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

The ConAm Returns Again

by Tom Yamachika, President, Tax Foundation Hawaii

Back in 2018, we as voters were inundated with impassioned arguments on both sides of a proposed constitutional amendment (“ConAm” for short).  The amendment would have given the State the power to impose a surcharge on real property tax, ostensibly to fund teacher pay raises.

The Hawaii Supreme Court voided the ballot question associated with the ConAm as vague and misleading in City & County of Honolulu v. State of Hawaii, 143 Haw. 455 (2018).

It’s now another election year.  A bill to put forth a similar ConAm, HB 1537, is advancing in the House.

Have the proponents of education funding learned their lesson from 2018?  We wonder about that.

The ballot question that the Hawaii Supreme Court found confusing in 2018 read:  “Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

The ballot question in HB 1537 is:  “Shall the legislature increase funding for public education for all of Hawaii's children and adults by establishing, as provided by law, a surcharge on residential investment property valued at $3,000,000 or greater, excluding a homeowner's primary residence?”

In 2018, our supreme court stated that proposed constitutional amendments and their corresponding ballot questions are required to be phrased in clear language that is not likely to deceive or mislead voters as to their nature and effect.  The court complained:

[To] fully appreciate the scope of the proposed change, a voter would need to know that the Hawai‘i Constitution provides independent taxing power to the counties; that the constitution currently allows only the counties to tax real property to the exclusion of all other government entities; and that the proposed amendment would make an exception to this exclusive authority of the counties by granting the State concurrent authority to tax what is presumably a subset of real property. None of this information is conveyed by the ballot question, which is instead likely to leave the average lay voter with the false impression that a vote in favor of the amendment would allow investment real property to be taxed in the first instance.

Yes, there are differences between the 2018 proposed ballot question and the current one.  The 2018 question spoke of surcharging “investment real property,” while the current one talks about “residential investment property, valued at $3,000,000 or greater, excluding a homeowner’s primary residence.”

In neither case does the ballot question mention the word “tax.”  Maybe in 2018 voters could figure out that a real property tax was being contemplated because that year’s question expressly referred to real property.  This year’s question does not even mention “real” property, so voters could be faced with a “surcharge,” whatever that means, on “residential investment property” which perhaps could be mobile homes or even shares of stock in Hilton or Marriott.  In that respect, the ballot question is even more vague than in 2018.

And how does the current language answer the supreme court’s complaint that the ballot question fails to mention the county’s exclusive authority to tax realty and that the proposal would alter it?  The short answer is that it doesn’t.

And finally, how do we even know whether the money raised by this surcharge is even going to be used for education?  Even if it is all sent to DOE, there would be nothing to prevent the legislature from shorting DOE in the regular budget now that it has an independent source of funding.

The Counties all oppose the bill.  For one thing, the counties’ bond holders (creditors) would be upset if the counties lost control over their primary source of repayment.  If this bill passes, then, look for the battle lines to be drawn the same as last time.  If the Hawaii Supreme Court is going to follow its precedent, the future of this measure looks bleak unless major changes are made to it.


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together


Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii